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‘Tis the season of mobile

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Retailers expect about £1bn to be spent via smartphones in the weeks before Christmas this year.



Christmas is upon us once again, and as we prepare to hang up our decorations and ready ourselves for the busiest trading period of the year, gift givers are heading online more than ever to make those purchases.

According to research by Marin Software, Cyber Monday is predicted to fall on December 3 in the UK and Amazon expects orders to peak at 9.20pm on that day.

This November will have seen one of the busiest spikes in search traffic to date as consumers research their gift options and plan their party season wardrobe in readiness to make purchases.

Today’s consumer is constantly connected. We increasingly lead three device lives: mobile, tablets and desktop computers. How we use them varies during the day and across the week, therefore those with a true multichannel strategy are likely to be more successful in delivering sales.

We’ve heard it before, but it is anticipated that this Christmas retail season will be the year of the mobile, with research by IMRG and Capgemini forecasting that of the £4.6bn spent online in the two weeks between December 3 and 17, just under £1bn of it will be spent via smartphones. The growth in ownership of smartphones has jumped from 43% in June 2011 to 58% in June 2012 and it is easy to see ownership hitting more than 70% next year.

Mobile searches are also peaking as consumers perform them while shopping on the high street. Debenhams claims 30% of all traffic to its site now comes via a mobile and a considerable share of this is in store.

John Lewis has found that customers who visited online and then one of its stores on average spent four times more than those who only visited the store. When you add mobile to the mix it jumped to eight times. John Lewis is also setting the benchmark for ensuring it delivers an omnichannel experience by rewarding store managers for online sales within a specific geographic location.

Google forecasts that in 2013 search volumes will “flip”, with most searches being made via mobile phones and not via desktop computers. So device-specific campaigns will be even more important to ensure retailers reach higher-spending tablet owners. A recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau highlighted the surprising fact that of the top 100 advertisers, only 37% had sites optimised for mobile.

As consumers, we expect sites to be optimised for whatever device we choose to access it on. Our patience with load times of sites is now about four seconds. A slow site is like obstructing the front door to your store – potential customers will give up and go next door.

With forecasts suggesting that 70% of the UK will have 4G coverage by the end of 2013, more online businesses will need to review the speed at which their sites download.

As we draw closer to Christmas, it will be interesting to see who will be the online winners this season and how well the digital age is embraced in 2013.

Nishma Robb is Chief Client Officer at global digital marketing agency iProspect.

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