New Research Predicts A Jolly Holiday For Mobile Commerce

Mobility is the hot-button topic for retailers this holiday season as consumers grow more comfortable browsing and buying via smartphones and tablets. In fact, an estimated 15% of U.S. consumers are expected to tap their mobile devices to access a retailer’s web site during November 2011, according to new analytics-based findings from IBM.

Data from the “IBM Coremetrics Benchmark Study” indicated that all online shopping during November will increase up to 15% year-over-year. The data was collected from more than 500 U.S. retailer web sites during from October 2010 to October 2011. Utilizing analytics technology, the study is designed to measure real-time sales data and online marketing results with a goal of revealing shopping trends across channels. Key areas investigated include mobile usage, m-Commerce and social media.

With the growing adoption of devices such as the iPad, iPhone and Android, shoppers are becoming more comfortable completing purchases using their smartphones. Overall, these findings allude to a more successful holiday season, according to John Squire, Chief Strategy Officer, IBM Coremetrics.


“Consumers are getting more accustomed to browsing and buying online,” Squire told Retail TouchPoints. “In turn, mobile has turned into one of their key go-to devices. We also are seeing a lot more information supporting the convenience of mobile. It will be interesting to see how November plays out and if December’s mobile usage and shopping will be even greater.”

During October 2011, 11% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retail web site, up from 4.2% in October 2010, according to the study. Shoppers used iPad and Android devices equally (3.5%), while 4% of consumers used iPhones to browse and buy. Total mobile purchases reached 9.6% in October 2011, versus 3.4% the year before. To that end, retailers are implementing several strategies to optimize the mobile experience, according to Squire.

“Retailers already are starting to make great investments in their mobile initiatives,” Squire said. “For example, many are focusing on the way the site experience is being displayed for mobile shoppers.”

Squire noted that retailers also must streamline mobile sites to appeal to “surgical shoppers” this holiday season. Results indicate that mobile shoppers’ “laser focus” on holiday purchases will lead to a 44.2% bounce rate. 

“Overall, mobile shoppers are spending less time on a web site than people who use a PC,” Squire explained. “When consumers make it to the site, if they don’t see what they want immediately, they leave. Unless they’re on an iPad, mobile users tend to convert at a lower rate. You really have to capture their attention right away.”

Consumers are utilizing iPads to replace their PC browsing and buying due to its portable size and media-rich features. In fact, iPad conversion rates reached 6.8% in October 2011, compared to a 3.6% conversion rate of other mobile devices. While multiple retailers are rolling out tablet applications to appeal to mobile savvy shoppers, Squire advises that retailers focus on personalization for mobile success. 

“Consumers who use an iPad tend to convert at approximately double the rate of shoppers who use an Android or iPhone,” Squire said. “In turn, retailers are looking at how they can attract iPad users and provide them with a great, personalized experience. But no matter which mobile device a shopper uses, the key is providing an experience that is hyper-personalized. An experience where the product, recommendations and promotions are very relevant to what a specific customer is doing at that moment, and what they’ve done before that moment.”

Recent introductions of mobile payment programs such as Google Wallet have boosted m-Commerce from a must-consider to a must-have. Squire added: “Many people have been saying ‘this is the year of mobile’ for the last 10 years. This year, they just might be right.”

Encouraging Interaction And Engagement Through Social Media
Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter also will impact conversion rates significantly this holiday season. According to the report of October 2011 conversion rates from the IBM study, 9.2% of shoppers who visited a retailer’s social media site and clicked through to its e-Commerce storefront completed a purchase. Facebook is the leading site, according to IBM: During October 2011, Facebook traffic accounted for the majority (77%) of traffic from all social networking sites.

“The big win for retailers in social media is the conversion rate,” Squire said. “If retailers really appeal to consumers who are active in social networks, those shoppers most likely will buy.”

To optimize social networking initiatives, retailers must develop campaigns that compel shoppers to transfer to the mobile or online storefront, according to Squire. For example, retailers such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s have excelled in social media by initiating one-to-one interaction with shoppers and creating engaging content.

“These retailers spend a lot of time thinking about how they can engage with their client base through social,” Squire said. “The data reveals that customers who interact on social sites want to be treated differently. They aren’t looking necessarily for the ‘hard sell’ but for the experience, and want retailers to walk them through, explain the product and why they should buy it.”

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