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Connecting at the Mobile Crossroads

May 25, 2016
By Rodney Mason

Choose your favorite metric, and research will show that each day more people have mobile devices, they’re using them more hours for more things and increasingly more e-commerce is taking place via mobile. Many retailers including Walmart, for example, reported that the majority of their Black Friday online traffic was from mobile.

So if your company hasn’t yet fully committed to a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy, it’s time.

As an incentives and engagement solutions company, we recently conducted

several U.S. studies that explored how people use digital technology to discover, filter and shop. The picture that emerged was of consumers increasingly comfortable with mobile technology, using it to quickly find the best available deals – including purchasing from a competitor while standing in your store – and ready to shop confidently and buy pretty much anytime, anywhere.

HERE ARE A FEW OF OUR OVERALL FINDINGS:

The big picture: Price rules. More than 95% of respondents said they’re more or as sensitive to price as a year ago, while almost as many believe their shopping power has decreased or remained the same. Accordingly, price easily outdistanced quality, brand, store and availability as the prime purchasing influencer. This sensitivity is the driver for how consumers use their mobile devices to shop, with price comparison as the primary function.

Shopping never sleeps. Overall, 71% use a smartphone every day; for millennials, it’s 89%. Tablet use is frequent, too. Being always online means always being ready to shop, and they are: 58% shop at home while watching/streaming TV, and 37% admit to shopping at work. Importantly, 62% regularly seek out and sign up for digitally delivered special promotions.

Social media shopping wins with millennials and women 30-plus. Asked where they learn about products, special sales and shopping news, millennials placed social media first. TV, the most popular option for consumers overall, failed to crack the top five for this group. For women 30 and older, social media was second behind TV. The No. 1 method for accessing social for all groups? You guessed it: mobile.

Consumers want savings from your social media. Of adult shoppers who follow brands on social media, more than half do so for savings first and foremost, topping product news, promotions and other branded communication. It’s time for brands and retailers to give customers what they want – more exclusive value from social. If anything, it’s past time, since 68% of adult shoppers who follow brands report regularly using social media special promotions. These numbers should be higher, and will be, but the offers just aren’t that prevalent yet.

Rebates whip instant discounts. Asked to choose between an instant discount and a deeper online rebate, consumers opted for the rebate in every single category, and usually by a large margin. The ability to make a quick submission on a smartphone considerably increases rebates’ attractiveness.

Most popular shopping apps. Amazon and Google apps are the top ways shoppers compare prices on smartphones, with retail websites a distant third. Since social apps are the most popular ones on phones, to meet your customers where they’re shopping you must be relevant and competitively priced on Amazon, Google and social media. Rebates provide the opportunity for best-in-market prices while protecting margins.

For shopping apps themselves, Amazon still dominates, but in the second tier the most popular apps are local grocery stores, and locations where consumers shop in person, such as Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and JC Penney. Most third-party savings apps are barely used at all by the shoppers who responded to our study. The only exceptions, showing respectable double-digit percentage use, were Groupon and RetailMeNot.

They’re willing to go get it. Most shoppers crave immediacy. They also like to save money. An overwhelming 86% of respondents would consider buying online and picking up in store (BOPIS) to save $10 on a $50 item. Given the growing popularity of rebates, it’s likely that a $10 BOPIS rebate in most cases would be less expensive than free shipping, and would drive much-needed foot traffic in-store.

Sun setting on traditional wallets. Shoppers are ready when you are when it comes to mobile payments. More than half would use a mobile wallet over a traditional one if it were accepted everywhere, and 20% would dispense with a traditional wallet entirely if they could. There was a lot to digest from our shopper studies, but here are three takeaways for retailers:

  • Mobile can no longer be an adjunct to your overall online efforts. It must be its own entity, with its own time, focus and budget.
  • It’s critical to have a strategy for competitive pricing on Amazon, Google and social channels; not so much for third-party shopping apps.
  • Rebates are growing in popularity and provide the opportunity to have best-in-market competitive prices and to drive BOPIS purchases. More than ever, shoppers are mobile, and they’re looking for more competitive, targeted deals that respond to their shopping styles. Wherever their shopping paths take them, by mapping a comprehensive go-to-market mobile strategy, you can make sure you’ll be there to meet them.

Rodney Mason is group vice president of strategy and marketing for Blackhawk Engagement Solutions.

*All subsequent figures are derived from this same study, Where It’s At: A Connected Shopper Study. Exceptions are the rebates section, which also includes information from a separate study on grocery shoppers, and the apps section, which encompasses information from a separate study on shopping apps, and from the grocery study.

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