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Mobile commerce expected to play even bigger role in holiday shopping

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Stacy Scott and Annie Martin did much of their Christmas shopping on their mobile devices last year and plan to follow a similar gameplan again this year.

  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

For Scott, making seasonal purchases on her Samsung smartphone is full of bonuses. Not only does she avoid congested parking lots and crowded store aisles, but she’s also able to quickly compare prices and make smarter buys. She also has easy access to a coupon app she downloaded from the Android market.

Though she still makes the occasional stop at a traditional brick-and-mortar store, Scott said she prefers to buy big-ticket electronics items and apparel via her phone.

“A lot of times they’re cheaper online than if you go to the store,” Scott said.

Martin, on the other hand, finds that time is her main issue. The Grovetown mother of two is an advocate of whipping out her iPhone while standing in a checkout line or running errands to shop for her young children, ages 5 and 3.

“I have limited time to get out by myself,” she said. “It’s just easier. If it’s easier and cheaper, why not?”

National marketing experts expect online purchases made this holiday season by either smartphones or tablets will surpass records set in 2012, when overall sales on Black Friday rose to more than 16 percent – a 9.8 percent increase from 2011, according to an online retail holiday readiness report compiled by IBM Enterprise Marketing Management.

Monetate, a marketing firm that provides businesses with big data insight, broke down the 2012 numbers even further by revealing that one in every five visits to leading e-commerce Web sites came from a tablet or smartphone. Almost one-third of all online traffic on Christmas Day last year came from smartphones, at 16.1 percent, and from tablets, at 15.6 percent. On Christmas Day in 2011, just 14.5 percent collectively was generated by smartphones and tablets.

Already, more than 30 percent of all online traffic came from mobile devices in the third quarter this year, said Jay Henderson, the global strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce.

“As we look ahead to the upcoming holiday shopping season, we’re anticipating continued growth of that,” he said. “I think we’re expecting mobile to continue to soar.”

Henderson said the spike in mobile sales could start the week before Thanksgiving and culminate in more than 30 percent of the commerce that occurs Thanksgiving weekend. The bulk of mobile business will profit larger national, regional and local chains as opposed to small businesses, he added.

“They don’t have to worry about scaling up their infrastructure to support that upcoming holiday season,” Henderson said of large retailers.

A spokesperson for Target said that mobile viewing now accounts for more than 30 percent of the discount chain’s entire digital traffic, which has spawned a new Target app, Cartwheel, that launched in June and provides users with savings.

Wal-Mart saw mobile traffic hover around 40 percent during last year’s holidays, with an even higher amount expected this November and December, said public relations director Ravi Jariwala.

More than half of Wal-Mart customers have smartphones, he added.

The company created its newest app, “store mode,” in 2012; it allows consumers in all 4,000 stores to customize shopping lists and access pricing, local ads and product locations. Older apps focused on mobilizing the online shopping experience through smartphones and tablets.

“Just as e-commerce brought the store to the web, mobile brings the web to the store,” Jariwala said. “It creates a seamless bridge between online and stores, and our mobile strategy has evolved to leverage our competitive advantage.”

While larger companies might take the thickest slice of the mobile commerce pie, local retailers are still getting in on the action by using mobile-friendly programs, such as Instagram and Facebook, for marketing.

Shawn Horseman, the owner of SOHO boutique, developed a Web site for his Surrey Center women’s fashion store just three months ago, but had been updating the company’s Instragram account with images of sales and new merchandise long before that.

Three days before last Christmas, Horseman posted onto the photo-sharing site a picture of employees wearing new Aztec print leggings that had just arrived at the store, and they were sold out by Christmas Eve, he said.

“It gets customers to our store so we’re still able to have a relationship with them,” Horseman said.

“It’s not like they order the product from their phone and we send it to them. We’re still having that face-to-face interaction, which is the part that we love. It’s not about just selling a bunch of products.”


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