Capitalizing on Mobile During the Holidays

By Len Shneyder, Senior Marketing Manager, OtherLevels

The numbers are out and they don’t lie: Almost 40% of all online traffic during Black Friday was driven by mobile devices. That figure is up 34% from the previous year, according to IBM’s Holiday Benchmark. But what’s more impressive than that is that nearly one-fifth of all online sales during the holiday shopping bonanza came from mobile devices.

What do these numbers mean? They mean that companies big and small have taken advantage of the devices in shoppers’ pockets and created a funnel that leads from browsing to buying in as few steps as possible. What makes this seamless journey possible? In a word, data.

Mobile devices yield reams of behavioral data, and the most successful and sophisticated brands out there are leveraging this information to better communicate with their customers. The rapid rise in the retail sector of mobile shopping is evidence of the application of good data, the creation of smart apps and launching of mobile-first campaigns to drive conversions. In a sense, the retail sector is catching up to mobile games and other sectors that have already tackled the anonymity of mobile device users.

Mobile push preempting the mad dash
According to IBM’s findings, mobile push notifications grew around 37%, in line with the rise in mobile traffic. Even more interesting is that the majority of push notifications were sent on Thanksgiving, the day before Black Friday. With a 23% rise in app downloads, retailers have a wide new audience of mobile users who have potentially opted in to receive push notifications.

Most mobile users who download an app never log into the app, opting instead to use it anonymously; and most retailers don’t force registration in the app unless someone makes a purchase. For all intents and purposes, these new users are anonymous. Marketers don’t know who they are and can’t always connect them to existing customer profiles until they purchase something. But this isn’t necessarily an obstacle.

Mobile apps give marketers unprecedented information on how customers use their devices. Now that we’ve entered the cycle of “echo Monday” promotions, it’s important to view the anonymous audience based on recency and frequency of usage. Users who have just downloaded an app should be gently nudged to return to the app. Carefully timed communications arriving within reasonable delivery windows will help boost app retention and usage. Pushing users to convert too quickly is equivalent to instant list fatigue. Mobile users can easily opt out of push notifications, so it’s important to exercise caution.

By carefully examining mobile app usage, marketers can determine windows of high engagement. For instance, evenings after work when someone is walking home and passing a store, during the morning commute or at lunchtime. These windows to browsing behaviors represent unique segments that should be applied to both anonymous and known users. The immediacy of mobile represents a new paradigm for marketing; it’s not about a regular broadcast cadence X times per week. Mobile is about creating smaller segments with matching characteristics that can be addressed through both broadcast and event-based messaging at intervals that are irregular but can still be tracked and measured through smart analysis of usage data.

The customer will tell you which channel to use
For companies that require app downloaders to register or have captured a significant number of registrations that can be linked to activity in other channels such as web and email, now is the time to carefully examine channel effectiveness: which channel drives the most views, the deepest level of viewing (e.g., how many page views vs. how deep they go into the app) and how many times an email is opened on a particular device. Further dimensions can and should include a comparison to abandoned shopping carts on mobile compared to the Web — where is the drop off in the funnel happening and is there a channel or platform on which it isn’t happening as readily?

By analyzing channel-specific engagement, marketers can make smarter decisions and refine communications that cater to users’ specific needs and preferred channels. There’s no sense in sending 10 emails a week to someone using a mobile app; they can have a richer and more immediate experience by receiving a push with deep links to a specific app page than by opening an email, hitting a mobile website and then reopening the app. If a hyper rich experience is necessary then push notifications can be leveraged to drive mobile users to their app inbox and receive a rich message experience complete with HTML, graphics, etc.

Mobile will continue to grow and offer new, exciting possibilities as the handsets we all rely on become more sophisticated and feature-rich. For marketers, the most important takeaway from this holiday season’s record-setting mobile trends is this: mobile is not a broadcast channel. Success in mobile marketing and messaging can only happen through the careful application of analytics you’re already using for email, direct mail, web and other channels. Find the tools and approach mobile with the same rigor you apply in every other part of your digital marketing.

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