What Marketers Need To Know About Mobile Usage During Holiday 2013

If Santa hasn’t already gotten himself a smartphone, it’s about time he did. With US smartphone penetration now at nearly 65%, there is nary a name on his nice or naughty list that isn’t addicted to their handheld technology. And this year, shoppers turned to their devices en masse to help them navigate the gifting season.

Year-over-year, we saw an 86% increase in retail-related mobile search activity on the xAd mobile-location platform during the holiday season. From big box retailers to local boutiques, advertisers understood the opportunity in mobile and planned accordingly this year.

But not all mobile holiday strategies are created equal, and not all had the best-laid plans behind them. Let’s dissect the data a bit and understand why some strategies soared higher than a red-nosed reindeer, while others sank like a lump of coal.

Mobile Users Are Here, Now Where Are You?

While consumers joke that holiday ads and merchandising start earlier and earlier every year, the timing for holiday ad spending in any medium has traditionally focused around Black Friday. However, recent research has revealed that retailers are missing out on an important opportunity to reach holiday shoppers at the very last mile — and, even more importantly, the last minute.

A recent report found that retail-related mobile search activity during the holiday season actually spikes on Christmas Eve — not Black Friday as previously assumed. This newly discovered activity, deemed Mobile Eve, is a product of increasing consumer procrastination, aided by the ease of information available with smartphones. In fact, Mobile Eve retail search activity is 58% greater than activity on Black Friday — yet the majority of advertiser dollars still focus on Black Friday.


(Click to enlarge.)

Yet another shift in mobile retail behavior around the holiday season came into view this year. In 2012, Black Friday and Christmas Eve were the undisputed spikes in mobile retail search activity during the holiday season.

But this year, retail search activity on mobile devices was actually 20% greater on Thanksgiving Day over Black Friday. Mobile Eve activity still takes the cake, but the shift in consumer activity this past season can easily be equated to the all-out saturation of holiday advertising touting “door buster deals” and all-night hours of operation starting on Thanksgiving Day. This is yet another window of opportunity available for retailers in mobile over the holiday season.

Mobile Activity Will Never Mimic Desktop

I know what many marketers are thinking: everyone shops during the holidays and therefore everyone should receive the same digital advertisements with the same strategy. While this seems a logical idea, it couldn’t be more detrimental to your holiday mobile ad planning. Mobile audiences are very different from those on desktop, and even different from other audiences within the mobile space.

Sense of urgency, timing, location, topical needs — all these elements play an essential role in consumers’ day-to-day mobile activity. So why on earth would you treat them the same as desktop consumers, especially during the holiday season when brands are looking to close out their year in the black?

Case in point — retail-related search activity on desktop follows a very different timeline than that of mobile seen above. Additionally, desktop keyword searches and ads clicked on most commonly differ, and so mobile holiday ad planning from strategy to creative must always come from a mobile-first mindset.

Google trends shopping queries

(Click to enlarge.)

Don’t Abandon Brick & Mortar

Our smartphones are primarily used on-the-go to access quick and relevant information. And there is nothing more relevant for mobile users on the go than information related to their current location. During the holiday season, the need for speed is exaggerated to panic-level as the actual holidays draw closer. Therefore, gifting procrastinators rely on location-relevance even more than the average mobile user.

With this increase in last-minute activity, digital gifting venues are out of the question due to the need to ship. E-commerce and even in-device m-commerce still require some level of planning ahead, because same-day delivery services are still hard to come by (and those drones are not quite off the ground yet). So, for last minute needs, consumers turn their attention to nearby brick-and-mortar locations where they can find the perfect gift in a pinch.

The proof is in their engagement with local retailers. A 2013 report found that 77% of mobile retail users purchase in-store. A forthcoming report found that post-click, users seeking retail information interact with map and driving directions more than those within any other vertical on the xAd platform.

These data are a clear indication of mobile users’ preference for storefront activity over online retailers like Amazon and Zappos. Not to say m-commerce efforts should be abandoned, but it’s clear a physical impact can be made on store visitation and local sales with additional focus on brick and mortar during the holiday season.

The bottom line here: stay on top of your mobile consumer activity. As mobile technology advances, so does the way consumers interact with the medium. For mobile marketers not already ingesting this data and elements into their holiday strategies — you may have skated by this year with mediocre results, but plan the same old campaigns next year, and you can bet your holiday budgets your mobile-savvy consumers will place you on the naughty list.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column | Search Marketing


About The Author: is VP of Marketing for xAd, where she oversees the company’s communications and strategic positioning in the local-mobile marketplace.

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