The Holiday Shopping Experience Goes Mobile

Lauren Krause
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Black Friday sales may diminish slightly in 2015, but that doesn't mean consumers shy away from the winter holiday shopping season. More and more customers gear up for sales through mobile devices, meaning that retailers need to have their sales pitches and products ready.

As many as 54 percent of shoppers intend to use smartphones throughout the entire holiday shopping season as opposed to just Black Friday. Because more people use mobile devices to create shorter shopping experiences, retailers can expect smartphone shopping to increase 64 percent as compared to 2014, and nearly one-third of all online purchases occur through mobile. Retailers that focus on getting people in a physical store and drop the ball with mobile shopping miss out on a good chunk of sales.

Timing and preparation remain important for holiday shopping, and as many as 61 percent of shoppers research a purchase before the Thanksgiving weekend. This figure increased 17 percent from the 2014 numbers. Once someone comes in the store, 52 percent of shoppers use a smartphone before perusing items on shelves, and up to 80 percent consult phones while looking for items.

All of these survey numbers add up to one basic trend centered around a notable increase in mobile shopping. Consumers want to make decisions on what to purchase after just a few moments of research. When they see the price of an item on the shelf, shoppers may search for a similar item from another store to comparison shop.

Stores must prepare for holiday shopping by having inventory online, as 38 percent of customers say they are more likely to shop when they can view items in the store through a website. Companies should have vital data on the store's official website, such as location, hours of operation and how to contact the seller. Businesses should expand online content to include video presentations, how-to tutorials and inspiring takes that make viewers want to know more.

Retailers should train every employee on the nuances of holiday shopping. Managers and owners need to show new hires the online content, how to use the mobile app and how to deal with the crush of shoppers. Senior employees can help train newer staff so seasonal employees do not feel abandoned or adrift in a sea of unfamiliar merchandise. Well-trained staff leads to more confident workers, which in turn leads to friendlier staff and higher sales.

Businesses must optimize websites for mobile shopping, as consumers do not want a slow-loading e-commerce page. Searching, viewing and purchasing should happen within a few quick swipes of a screen.

With holiday shopping continuing to evolve, 2015 appears more focused on smartphones and mobile commerce than ever. Retailers should already have preparations in place a few months before Black Friday to test apps, sync content and show products. This way, consumers know what to expect once the actual shopping frenzy gets underway.

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