The proportion of UK ‘always on shoppers’ using their smartphones to make online purchases during the lead up to Christmas is up to 44%. This figure is compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Ve Global consumer behaviour data. The company predicts that mobile sales will rise to more than 50% during the Black Friday weekend – the unofficial start of the festive shopping period.
The learnings are taken from a study examining 50 million online browser sessions across 3,000 retail websites. The research was undertaken during the third quarter (1 July – 30 September) of 2017 and the same period this year.
Martech company Ve, found that the growth in sales is followed by a further 6% increase in browsing via a smartphone. This puts mobile as the dominant channel for browsing in the UK – registering more sessions (53%) than desktop PCs and tablets combined. According to the company, this trend bodes very well for brands in the run-up to Black Friday and the whole of the crucial ‘Golden Quarter’.
It also presents marketers with an opportunity to engage always on shoppers; a key demographic who carry and regularly check their mobile devices.”
The analysis also reveals a significant reduction in mobile “bounce” rates. Where users would often leave a website almost immediately after arriving, which are down 10% on 2017.
Meeting mobile first expectations
According to Ve CEO David Marrinan-Hayes, “Ve’s data indicates that UK retailers are beginning to meet the mobile-first expectations of the modern online shopper. We also see the continued demise of the desktop PC and even the tablet – all of which are fading towards irrelevance as the mobile experience improves.”
Marrinan-Hayes adds, “The main challenge for brands is to develop and deploy mobile experiences that are relevant and bring value to each potential customer. Done correctly, personalised messages and content delivered direct-to-mobile via SMS or web push notifications, can be welcome interruptions and lead a customer into making a purchase.”
The study expects a further uptake in mobile sales during the Black Friday weekend. This is generally regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season. Last year 36% of UK retail purchases over the Black Friday weekend occurred via a smartphone, up 12% on the Q3 average. An equivalent increase this year would put the mobile share of online sales at an unprecedented 52%.
In contrast to the popularity of mobile shopping, sales made via desktop PCs have dipped below 50% for the first time, with purchases on tablet devices slipping by 5% compared to last.
Meeting rising customer expectations
Marrinan-Hayes believes brands must build campaigns that interact with individuals in a uniquely personalised way if they hope to retain customers using those channels:
“By no means is the desktop or tablet experience dead in the eyes of consumers. However, greater efforts need to be made by retailers if they hope to capture the attention of consumers in a mobile-first environment.”
With the rising expectations of the always on shoppers, and the constant wave of digital innovations, there is a need for more personalised enhanced user experiences. Retailers will continue to invest in the correct initiatives or tools to remain competitive.
What this means for retailers?
Consumers have forever changed how they shop. They no longer hit the high streets and prefer the convenience of mobile online shopping from their bed, sofa or desk.
While this research into always on shoppers is interesting, it is asking the wrong question. Little research has been done on the impact of changing digital behaviour on retail’s holy grail – the seasonal calendar. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to New Year’s Day. These dates remain the largest seasonal activity in the retail calendar. Other dates such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Back-to-School (BtS) remain important.
The traditional seasons still provide noticeable peaks in shopper traffic and sales volume. Although they are increasingly smaller peaks with each successive year. For many retailers, they underwrite the rest of the year. More importantly for retailers though, those seasons no longer deliver profitable performance.
Simply put, retail has forever changed. Always on shoppers can gather information and explore global shopping alternatives. As a result, they are firmly and forevermore in control of their shopping journeys throughout the year, and across the globe.
Successful retailers of the future will have to provide the tools and experiences that support the always on shopper.