How the mobile customer experience is driving holiday sales in 2018

Discover three strategies for creating mobile-friendly touchpoints in the customer journey.

Posted December 4, 2018

For the first time ever, mobile sales are expected to dominate holiday shopping this year. According to Salesforce’s 2018 predictions, smartphones will surpass computers this holiday season for both traffic (68 percent) and orders (46 percent).

As mobile shopping continues to trend upwards, its growth has spurred a demand for omnichannel customer experiences, according to PwC’s 2018 Holiday Outlook. “Typically, the omnichannel shopper is more engaged,” says Allison Stone, PwC’s consumer markets manager. “They are researching and interacting with products in stores and online so when it comes time to buy, they are confident in their decision and tend to spend more money,” Stone adds.

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The proof is in the ‘figgy’ pudding. According to the same PwC report, consumers who shop digitally and in-store during the holidays will spend an average of $1,379, while online-only shoppers will spend $300 less. Younger shoppers in particular are poised to use mobile to make most of their holiday purchases. Of the Gen Z consumers (aged 17–22) who plan to complete all their holiday shopping online, 50 percent said they will shop via smartphone.

With so many items just a click away to purchase, brands are under increased pressure this holiday season to make their mobile customer experience more appealing and easier to navigate. Here are three key strategies to help make that happen.

1. Use social media to drive traffic

As the line between social media and online shopping continues to blur, social channels, like Instagram, are driving more and more traffic to ecommerce sites, says Rick Kenney, Salesforce’s head of consumer insights.

According to Kenney, Instagram will deliver 20 percent of the ecommerce traffic in 2018. “Instagram is a much more appropriate channel for retailers to express themselves and incorporate links to buy while showing off the product,” he adds.

The increase is likely thanks in part to an easier shopping process implemented by the app earlier this year. Previously, when consumers saw a product they liked, they would have to leave the Instagram app, open a new web browser and Google the item to find it, resulting in a disjointed customer journey.

Now, with the introduction of shoppable posts and “buy” buttons, brand ambassadors and influencers can post photos of themselves wearing a brand’s clothing and accessories, and consumers can simply tap the photo to access a link where they can buy the items.

Overall, 39 percent of total shoppers said they will use “buy” buttons via smartphone and 25 percent will click on shoppable photos, according to PwC’s Holiday Outlook. Of Millennial respondents, 42 percent plan to shop directly from shoppable photos and 57 percent from “buy” buttons, Stone adds.

2. Incorporate mobile wallets

With consumers looking for convenience and faster mobile checkout, expect to see an increased use of mobile wallets during this holiday shopping season, says Kenney.

According to Salesforce’s 2018 Shopper-First Retailing survey, “Mobile wallets account for 30 percent of mobile orders globally, and sites with mobile wallets see twice the mobile conversion rate growth.” Shoppers who use Apple Pay can complete their transactions 90 seconds faster because it eliminates several steps in the checkout process, Kenney adds.

However, savvy brands need to do more than just offer an option to pay with PayPal or Apple Wallet alongside the option to pay by credit card. For instance, footwear company Johnson and Murphy offers the mobile wallet option within its shopping cart, not at the end of their shopping experience, allowing the customer to accelerate the checkout process, Kenney says.

Retailers should be aware that many shoppers might only have a few minutes to shop online, especially if they’re squeezing in a purchase while waiting in line for their morning latte. “You want the shopper to make the purchase while they are interested, otherwise they might abandon the cart,” he says.

3. Use artificial intelligence to drive purchases

Consumers expect to interact with knowledgeable sales associates even when they’re purchasing items online. As a result, more brands are using artificial intelligence (AI) to select and connect products to shoppers. This is becoming a massive point of sale for retailers, with 30 percent of all revenue coming from shoppers purchasing an item recommended by the site, according to Kenney.

“AI is getting better and retailers are adopting better, deeper and more relevant uses throughout their sites,” Kenney says. For instance, specialty foods company Stonewall Kitchen is using AI to customize search results based on what the customer has clicked on in the past when visiting the site. Women’s clothing brand Rebecca Taylor uses AI to allow shoppers to snap a photo of an item they are seeking, and then the site uses that photo to find a similar or identical item.

Mobile-first tools that incorporate AI will continue to be important retail revenue drivers for years to come. “We always have our phone in our hand,” says Stone. “It’s so easy to just jump right on and purchase something as you think of it.”

As mobile continues to transform the way customers interact with brands, consumers will expect shopping experiences that are more convenient, faster and increasingly personalized. Savvy brands that incorporate mobile-friendly touchpoints throughout the customer journey will dominate this holiday season and in the years to come.

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