Retailers Brace For Holiday Mobile Commerce Crush


Mobile commerce will reach new highs on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, and retailers are hastily preparing for the onslaught of traffic those devices will bring.

Couple that with the fact that there are 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, compared to last year’s 32, and retail marketers are working on compressed campaign time.

“Close to 40% of our site traffic comes from smartphones and tablets,” noted Gayle Franger, VP of omnichannel retail at PetSmart, during a private media roundtable discussion hosted by eBay Enterprise at its Client Summit yesterday in New York. “We had an amazing holiday season last year with double-digit growth.”

In a riff on the “12 Days of Christmas,” PetSmart did 12 days of daily deals and events using promotional TV campaigns as a key traffic driver. “We’re going to add a pre-black Friday event to drive continual traffic and we’re thinking of, ‘How do you continue to drive interest and excitement both online and in stores?’” incrementally between Black Friday and the December holidays.

Sony too has seen strong mobile traffic, and it says use patterns are shifting. “Last year, we saw tablets dominating about a quarter of total site traffic,” said Alexsandar Reljic, VP of ecommerce at Sony Electronics. This year, the reverse is true and Sony’s seeing smartphone traffic exceed the share of tablet activity, which indicates consumers are getting more comfortable with mobile phones not only as a research mechanism, but as a means for purchase.

With regard to paid media priorities, Reljic told AdExchanger that branded and affiliate search are “our largest sources of traffic” and search engine optimization is a growing area of investment for the brand. Last year, Sony saw traffic spike in the days leading up to Black Friday with Thanksgiving Day serving as one of its strongest. “You have to figure out how your traffic works” before altering your campaigns, Reljic said. One of the ways Sony does that is through mindful evaluation of data.

In addition to eBay Enterprise marketing solutions, Sony uses data-management platform Adobe AudienceManager to “learn a tremendous amount about our customers and pass that information on to product development teams,” he commented. “We want maximum consumption of data across our company. Data takes the emotion and assumptions out of the flow of information” and helps the brand answer hard questions about where and when to make investments.

The retailers in the room were in agreement that cross-device attribution is a growing area of opportunity and challenge for their organizations. According to Reljic, “the world of mobile is a separate silo than the world of laptops and that gap will grow” if teams and technologies don’t talk to one another.

“Email is such a key driver of ecommerce and, now, this ‘omnicommerce’” conversation, said John Sheldon, global head of strategy for eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions. “Some of our clients have 60% of email opens happening on mobile devices. We [published] a study recently that found 49% of consumers are starting [transactions] on a smartphone at home and then transitioning to other devices.”

Sheldon added, “We’ve really been advising clients to try and make that transition or handoff to other devices easier for the consumer. In a world where browsers are defaulting to not using cookies, we really need to innovate and gather a hundred other attributes when someone browses on a mobile device to help us identify those consumers.”

In addition to reaching consumers on various channels and platforms, Sucharita Mulpuru, a VP and principal analyst at Forrester, asked the retailers if they think of the elephant in the room – Amazon – as a “frenemy” of brands.

“Being a multichannel brand, why wouldn’t I allow you to order on and pick up at Best Buy?” Reljic said. “I want to sell more Sony. For me, because of the kind of brand we are, [Amazon] is a friend. We’re not only direct sales, but [we also rely on] channel partners. Amazon, eBay, Google…all have a role to play in overall commerce.”

PetSmart’s Franger added that brands need to keep redefining the value of what particular channels or products means to the consumer. “We have a laser-focused customercentric strategy,” she said. As she put it, it’s easy to “get wowed by a lot of the sexy tools and toys out there.”

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