Walking through Marks & Spencer the other day I was confronted with the Christmas display out in full festive force. I absolutely love Christmas but the thought of battling my way through Christmas shoppers along Oxford Street fills me with absolute dread.
Christmas almost induces this sense of panic in us to get everything bought, wrapped and under the tree in record time. With customer shopping habits rapidly changing, retailers need to be prepared for a new hybrid of Christmas shopper, as the number of presents purchased online via smartphones and tablets is set to surge. This year will be a very mobile… (and merry!) Christmas.
Big retailers John Lewis and Marks & Spencer (M&S) have both released interesting insights recently on their customer shopping habits. A report by John Lewis found 40% of digital traffic to the retailer was through mobile devices and nearly a quarter of all online sales are now attributed to shoppers making purchases from handheld devices. The biggest appeal for mobile is that purchases can be made anywhere and research is showing new patterns around the times of day consumers are choosing to shop. These insights can be invaluable for marketers informing the strategy they implement as key consumers become increasingly accessible and available for engagement.
John Lewis identifies the rise of the early-bird shopper between 6am and 8am. It appears consumers are using any opportunity they can to use their mobile devices. Interestingly M&S also found a peak at around 3.30pm during the week as mums wait for their kids at the school gate.
One of the biggest drivers of mobile purchases recently is the trend of second screening. People are increasingly browsing their smartphones and tablets during ad breaks whilst watching TV. As Mark Lewis, Online Director of John Lewis puts it “It is the hi-tech equivalent of the surge in electrical use as the nation puts on the kettle for a cuppa after the news”. The evenings, around 8pm and 9pm are therefore crucial times for marketers to be engaging with consumers with Sunday nights now an important sales period as shopping becomes a leisure activity. Retailers have already predicted a “cyber-Sunday” on the horizon.
So what does this all mean for the world of PR and marketing? With tablets and smartphones top of peoples’ Christmas wish lists this highlights the need for PRs and marketers to be integrating mobile strategies into their communications to effectively target their audiences. As consumers seek instant gratification, mobile allows users to shop with ease, taking the stressful in-store experience of the festive period out of the equation. Brands, however, must adapt their websites to ensure they are mobile-friendly to offer a rich and reliable online experience. It is also important to remember that mobile is one piece of the puzzle and brands need to adopt a holistic approach, considering all elements of the communication spectrum to provide a seamless brand experience. It will be interesting to see post-Christmas which brands publish the highest levels of sales and what percentage of these stem from mobile purchases.
Suddenly the thought of Christmas shopping doesn’t seem so bad after all…