The verdict is in: mobile devices won this holiday season. While sales were lackluster for brick-and-mortar and Web retailers, mobile sales jumped over 25 percent on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, leading IBM’s director of Smarter Commerce Jay Henderson to dub mobile shopping as the “new Thanksgiving tradition.” More than ever, mobile devices are transforming how people discover, browse, and buy this holiday season and throughout the rest of the year.
There are a number reasons for this shift, the most important of which is not wanting to leave the couch after three plates of turkey, stuffing, and pie. Mobile apps enable businesses to reach customers wherever they are in real-time, and thus provide a cornucopia of benefits for brands and their marketing efforts. Here are six ways that mobile apps enhanced this year’s holiday shopping season for brands and consumers alike.
1. Knowledge is Power
Mobile devices enable one-to-one communication between brands and consumers, rather than mass-marketing. Traditionally, holiday campaigns were all about sending offers for sales and discounts that were only available in-store. Smartphones provide an easier, smarter alternative by allowing brands to send direct personalized offers that reflect the individual customer’s interests in the moment. For example, a toy store could notify a parent when an item on their Wish List is in stock, or let a gamer know that the new game they’ve looked at online is on sale in a store near them.
2. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
FOMO plagues all of us in one way or another, and few things are as motivating to shoppers as the feelings of urgency and scarcity. We hate thinking that we could miss a great opportunity, whether it is getting discounted tickets to see our favorite live band or buying that perfect holiday gift. Mobile makes it easy for brands to deliver “last one” offers when customers like or search for an item. Publicizing that only a few things are in stock, or that a special, one-time offer lasts for a short period of time, is an instant way to generate demand and excitement. Mobile devices are the perfect vehicle for doing this because someone doesn’t have to be sitting at their computer or watching TV to spring into action. Just look at what happened with HotelTonight’s $7 hotel special for Black Friday. Those deals sold out in 6 and a half minutes. That degree of speed is only possible on mobile.
3. Social Proof
Social proof is huge for today’s consumer, especially millennials. When they see their friends sharing something online, or even strangers talking about something on Twitter, they are highly motivated to buy. Mobile devices allow brands to capture that power by implementing seamless, on-the-go sharing capabilities. They can prompt a share on Facebook after someone makes a purchase, and send customers a message in real-time that notifies them about what their friends have bought. GoodEggs did this well with its holiday baskets by asking people to share on Facebook once they ordered. The result? Instant buzz.
4. Group Dynamic
Peer motivation is a powerful thing, in terms of social proof as well as motivating people to bring their friends in on deals. Leveraging this dynamic can be as simple as creating a tweetable offer, whereby if a customer shares an offer on social media and their friends redeem it, that customer’s purchase is free. Groupon and LivingSocial have done this effectively for years. Men’s Wearhouse also uses this strategy, with their offer of a free tux rental, if five of your friends rent one as well — perfect for weddings, proms, and holiday parties. Mobile facilitates sharing and redeeming offers, fueling the process of turning customers into brand advocates.
5. Hybrid Models
Mobile devices create great opportunities for brands with physical stores as well, because smartphones are increasingly acting as companions to in-store shoppers. 84 percent of smartphone shoppers use their phone to help shop while in store. Location-based messages enable brands to alert customers to key deals when they arrive, improving their overall experience and collecting valuable data about their behavior.
6. Beating the rush
Mobile devices give shoppers a competitive advantage. Rather than waiting for Black Friday, waking up before dawn, waiting in line for hours, and then fighting hordes of shoppers, they can get a headstart on sales a few days before. Lots of companies, like Amazon, started their holiday sales a bit early this year. DogVacay got a big jump by sending its members a push notification about the Christmas holiday several weeks before, giving them plenty of time to book a dog-sitter.
Holiday shoppers are motivated by two main goals — to find the perfect gifts, and to get great deals. Whether they are sitting on the couch at home or braving the crowds at a mall, mobile devices are a powerful way to connect searching shoppers with brands who have what they are looking for.