Until recently, holiday shopping was typically a planned event. You picked a day to head to the malls or department stores, spent a few hours (or more) browsing the selections, and, with any luck, came home with bags full of purchases.
That's all changed in recent years; instead of daylong, in-store shopping marathons, today's consumers are squeezing mobile shopping "moments" into their everyday lives. According to recent Google and Ipsos MediaCT data, 54 percent of holiday shoppers plan to shop on their smartphones in their spare time throughout the whole season, rather than cramming it all in on Black Friday weekend.
This trend toward shorter, more purposeful mobile shopping sessions has led to an uptick in mobile sales: Smartphone shopping has increased by 64 percent over the last year, and nearly a third of all online purchases now happen on mobile phones. So if your 2015 holiday marketing strategy only focuses on the "big" shopping days, you're going to miss out. [Google to Retailers: Get Mobile for Holiday Happiness]
"The time to start reaching these holiday shoppers is now," Matt Lawson, Google's director of performance ads marketing, wrote in an article about the research. "We found that 61 percent of shoppers will have already started researching their purchases before Thanksgiving weekend, up 17 percent from last year. [However,] the majority of purchasing will take place later into the holiday season. There is no longer a sense of urgency, since every day is a shopping day."
Even when consumers do visit local stores to do their shopping, they're still using their mobile devices to research and make purchases. Google found that 52 percent of shoppers will use their smartphones for holiday shopping before visiting stores, and more than 80 percent will consult their phones while in stores.
What does this mean for small businesses? Whether you're an e-tailer or a brick-and-mortar store, you should strive to provide consumers with a great mobile experience this holiday season.
"[There is] potential to connect with customers in the I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do or I-want-to-buy moments when [they] are making decisions," said Claire Mudd, director of small business marketing for Google. "Mobile is changing the way we live, and changing the type of information customers expect from businesses online. When mobile users head to the Web, [you should] be there, be useful and be quick."
Mudd cited three examples of local businesses that have taken these tips to heart and optimized their mobile presence for their customers.
Be there. Today's consumers want the full scoop on your business before they decide to shop with you. Google data revealed that consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit and 29 percent more likely to consider purchasing from businesses that have complete online listings. Mudd advised updating your listings with seasonal information, hours and photos to make sure would-be visitors have all the information they need to make that decision. For instance, Connecticut-based Lyman Orchards has brought its 18th-century, family-owned business into the modern era by using Google My Business to provide driving directions, hours of operation and contact information so people know when and how to reach the company.
Be useful. Shoppers consult a wide range of online resources in their holiday research, including video content. In fact, 26 percent of shoppers say videos are their go-to source for gift ideas, and 32 percent plan to use video more this year to help with holiday purchases. Businesses like online craft-supply store Blitsy create useful YouTube tutorials that encourage shoppers to purchase the company's products and create the crafts seen on the videos. Any business can take advantage of this medium to tell the company's story, share how-tos and inspire viewers, Mudd said.
Be quick. The best time to optimize the mobile version of your website was yesterday. Consumers have very little patience for slow-loading, unresponsive or out-of-date pages, so it's important to invest time and resources into a mobile-friendly site. Print Syndicate, for example, showcases its latest seasonal designs on its three e-commerce-brand sites, and allows customers to search, view and purchase products with just a few swipes on their mobile devices.
For more tips on making the most of your holiday marketing strategies this year, visit Business News Daily's guide.