Holiday retailers, get your mobile-friendly sites ready or risk losing sales

Apparently we will be “careful and controlled” this holiday season, at least when it comes to spending money on gifts and things, but there’s no doubt that the Christmas Spirit will hit us once again.

If you’re a retailer many of your customers will this year use mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to find your store and your products. And they will do so more than they have in previous years and no matter whether you’re an online or offline retailer. If you need convincing, look no further than the forecast that more than 420 million smartphones will be sold worldwide this year.

So get ready, build a mobile web site if you don’t have one or improve the one you already have.

Retailers need to move fast

If you will go out to hunt bargains on Black Friday in the U.S., there’s a decent chance you will use your mobile device to find the best deals. Google predicts that 15% of Black Friday searches this year will be from mobile devices. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. where traditionally retailers offer big discounts and deals to kick off the holiday shopping season. Google also predicts that an astounding 44% of total searches for last-minute gifts and store locations will be from mobile devices this holiday season.

In the chart below you can see what Google calls a “double peak” in search volumes. The first peak is increased traffic the week of Black Friday, as bargain hunters try to find great deals and stores where to find them in, and the second peak is the week before Christmas, as shoppers try to find last-minute deals for their stockings and to put under their Christmas trees.

Chart courtesy of Google

Although we couldn’t find any specific figures showing that an investment in a mobile site pays off in increased sales, statements like that should make you sit up and take notice of the importance of having a good mobile version of your site. IBM wrapped it up nicely, writing that “mobile and social visitors are rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Retailers need to move fast to ensure they meet the expectations of fickle mobile visitors, and should continue cultivating the important segment of social media users.”

Not just buying stuff with mobile

But it’s a much wider issue than just customers actually purchasing products from a store online. Data from about a year ago shows that smartphone owners in the U.S. used their mobile devices to find store locations, research products to buy, comparison shop, look for discounts, check product availability and more. More recent data show that almost a third of U.S. smartphone owners plan to use their mobile device this holiday season to search for such activities.

The conclusion must be that even if you’re an offline brick and mortar retailer, more customers this year will find your location, your selection of products, and your offers using a mobile device. Whether that is a smartphone or tablet, get busy polishing up your mobile website before you hang up the holiday decorations.

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