November 26th, 2012 by Kelly Liyakasa

If you haven’t already had your fill of all of the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Tuesday-whatever-they’re-calling-it coverage, here’s one more dutiful news bit for the record.

IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark platform index estimates that online sales numbers this Black Friday shot up 24 percent over last year’s, with an excess of 16 percent of sales on retailers’ online sites happening on a mobile device. Not shocking – IBM had predicted a couple months back that 20% of online sales this holiday shopping season would be transacted through mobile devices. As evidence, member-based ecommerce design site Fab.com reports 40 percent of its Thanksgiving Day sales were mobile transactions, so says Business Insider.

For our December issue, I’ll take a look at where companies are investing in terms of mobile-optimized sites versus applications designed for tablets or smartphones. Some of my findings surprised even me. One thing was clear: customer behaviors are very different and device-specific. Planning for that versatility in one’s mobile strategy is critical. What’s even more critical is avoiding the tendency to look at “mobile” as a standalone thing.

Instead of thinking “in siloes,” retailers need to incorporate mobile into a broader marketing plan that also encompasses transitive elements like loyalty, social media, and commerce. That was a key point from a conversation I had with Jamie Tedford, CEO of Brand Networks, when in New York for AdTech. Here’s a sneak peek at our mobile feature for December and my talk with Tedford:

Like Tedford elaborates on, “there’s no question that people are shopping with their phones out” and the question becomes, “how do we intercept the customer at the right time” with the appropriate messaging or form of engagement. While Tedford says native mobile is powerful for its rich, immersive experiences with “dynamic social hooks” embedded in, there is still that thing called HTML5.

When companies look to mobile, they need to consider that consumers use both retail sites and shopping apps and at different intervals. And there are still plenty of challenges for even Web-based browsing. In the “2012 Online Shopping Customer Experience Study” authored by The Adcom Group of Companies on behalf of VHT, more than three-quarters of online shoppers express frustration when trying to obtain help in solving an online purchase problem.

An overwhelming 60.3% of survey respondents had problems correctly reading and using a “captcha,” (that code generated to ensure you’re a human, not a bot. More often than I’d like to admit, I’m probably classified as a bot.) Some 46% said they faced troubles entering promo codes, redeeming gift cards, or some other discount.

That’s a big one for brands…many a times, rewards or discounts are linked with loyalty programs, so there’s a good chance your best customers are hitting roadblocks on their paths to purchase. And about two-thirds of shoppers say they “give up” or “shop elsewhere” when they encounter difficulties in online shopping. That impacts sales.

Although a bulk of consumers primarily use their desktop or laptop to browse or purchase, 73% of online shoppers reportedly use both retail websites and apps intermittently along the way, the Adcom report says. Bottom line: companies have to be equipped to meet their customer where they’re at in the purchase journey, and engage them appropriately for that particular venue.

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