Online, mobile sales prove key to early holiday shopping trends

Online, mobile sales prove key to early holiday shopping trends

The holiday shopping season presents a complex, dynamic challenge for email marketers. While the basic principles remain the same each year – people are out in droves shopping for gifts for their loved ones, and companies must take advantage of the rush by reaching their email marketing list contacts with alluring offers and promotions – many other factors create something of a moving target. For instance, what will the top purchasing trends be? Will consumers increase their spending on tech gadgets relative to clothing? And in an age defined in many ways by the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, will shopping prove more lucrative via digital or in-store channels?

Mobile, ecommerce hit record highs
Marketers who prepared for a shopping season defined by mobile and online sales may already be seeing their efforts pay off. Recent statistics revealed that the Thanksgiving shopping weekend was characterized by purchases made on electronic platforms.

In fact, online sales on Cyber Monday increased by 20.6 percent over last year, thereby setting a new record, according to IBM. Furthermore, the stretch between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday was the most active five-day period to date in terms of digital purchases.

Perhaps even more staggering, however, was the increase in mobile commerce. IBM reported that smartphone and tablet shopping grew at a year-over-year rate of 55.4 percent, accounting for more than 17 percent of all retail transactions.

"The mobile device has become the shopping companion of choice for consumers, driving record mobile sales with 55 percent growth over last year," remarked IBM Smarter Commerce Strategy Director Jay Henderson.

Adapt your holiday campaigns for mobile
In light of these statistics, email marketers simply can't afford not to optimize for mobile when they plan their holiday promotional campaigns. Companies that ignore mobile shoppers risk losing revenue to competitors, as many retailers are already learning to adapt to the smartphone generation. IBM noted that retailers upped their sending of push notifications – which send brief messages about sales or available products directly to customers' mobile devices – by 77 percent during Thanksgiving weekend, in comparison with the previous two months.

One of the key challenges that email marketers face in mobile optimization is how to design their messages' layouts for the different mobile operating systems used by customers on firms' targeted email lists. Android and iOS are the two most popular, of course, but Windows Phone is also the choice of a growing segment of consumers, and Blackberry hasn't totally fallen off the map, either.

To this end, responsive design can be a key asset. Leveraging the adaptability of HTML5 coding, this technique can create layouts that will change based on the specific parameters of each operating system – how large the mobile email viewing window is, for instance, and where images are placed.

If you'd rather focus on one mobile OS, however, consider targeting Apple product users. According to IBM, iOS accounted for 14.5 percent of online purchases compared to Android's 2.6 percent. iPhone and iPad users also seem to be higher spenders than those who prefer the Google platform. iOS purchases averaged $120.29 – considerably higher than Android's $106.70, especially when you take volume into account.

Consider video
Of course, you won't be the only marketer on the block who's set his or her sights on mobile shoppers. As such, you'll need to get creative if your marketing emails are going to stand out in consumers' mobile inboxes.

The holiday crunch might be a great time to consider video, a growing trend in email marketing. According to a study by Reel SEO, 82 percent of marketers found video effective, and 60 percent said it improved conversion rates. Of course, you'll also need to make sure the footage will look good on a mobile screen.

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