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Five Steps To Capturing Mobile Customers In 2012

One of the top local marketing headlines this holiday season is that mobile is playing a much greater role in the average shopping experience.

With a fast-growing and appealing consumer base now utilizing mobile devices throughout the purchasing process from pre- to post-sale, local businesses are taking note and investing in mobile marketing at an unprecedented rate.

Here’s a five-step process to better understand the mobile shopping phenomenon to enable your business to influence customer decisions in 2012.

1.  Recognize Mobile Is A Big Deal That’s Only Getting Bigger

Early consumer data from this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend – also known as the busiest shopping weekend of the year – shows mobile surging ahead as a leading medium for shopping digitally.

In 2010, mobile platforms were responsible for just 5.6% of online shopping traffic on Black Friday, according to the IBM Smarter Commerce benchmark of online retail activity.

This year, that number grew to a record 14.3% of online shopping traffic. And consumer activity is not limited to product or store research, but also to actual sales. IBM found that sales from mobile devices during Thanksgiving weekend reached an astonishing 9.8% of digital retail transactions, more than three times the 3.2% rate of the same time last year.

As consumers jump on the mobile bandwagon, so are local businesses – or to be more more direct, your competitors. According to Ad-ology’s 2012 Marketing Forecast released last month, more than 20% of small business decision makers said they plan to commit more resources to mobile marketing in the coming year, up from 12% who said the same last year and 2% in 2009.

Clearly, local businesses understand the value of mobile as a marketing tool and are reallocating budgets to build on the trend.

2. Understand That Mobile = Young & Wealthy Customers

Last week, IAB’s Mobile Marketing division released a comprehensive report on mobile that highlighted the strong appeal of the mobile shopping demographic.

A September 2011 comScore study included in the report found that U.S. consumers accessing mobile shopping content are younger than average mobile users (61% are under the age of 34, compared with 37% of all mobile users).

Additionally, the study showed that the average mobile users have somewhat higher average incomes, with 48% earning more than $75,000 per year, versus 42% of all U.S. mobile users. Local businesses that successfully tap into mobile now will be the best positioned to reach young and wealthy customers over the long term.

3.  Pay Attention To Where Mobile Is Hot

While we already know that urban areas are popular hotbeds for mobile shopping, the IAB report lays out which U.S. cities are home to the most mobile shopping-savvy customers.

Using an index that aggregated stats for mobile phone ownership, mobile coupon usage, mobile retail app ownership, and mobile social media app usage, IAB determined that Houston is the most mobile shopping-savvy city in the country, followed by New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth.

In addition, eBay data validated these findings by showing New York and Houston among the most mobile shopping cities on Black Friday. Local businesses in these cities should be extra diligent about creating and implementing mobile marketing strategies.

That said, the mobile shopping trend is truly national, so many businesses should be moving forward with mobile plans regardless of where they’re located.

4.  Influence Mobile Shoppers’ Pre-Purchase Decisions

The IAB report, citing comScore data, showed that mobile shoppers rely on their devices to help them make a variety of purchasing decisions, ranging from where to shop to what products to buy:

  • About 15% of mobile shoppers look for store locations, demonstrating the importance of accurate business address, contact information and business type categorization. Local businesses should ensure that they are listed and strategically advertise on all major local sites including Yelp, Citysearch, Google Places, Yahoo Local, and many others.
  • Business owners should also confirm that their print and Internet Yellow Pages listings are correct, since that information streams not only to publishers’ mobile apps, but to many local sites as well. Businesses should also make this information is easily accessible in mobile-friendly versions of their websites.
  • Approximately 9.8% of mobile shoppers compare product prices, while 9.5% look for coupons and deals, making it clear that price is a major determining factor in predicting sales.

In the past, the availability of pricing information was limited unless customers scoured through newspaper ads or travelled between stores. Even when online offerings became more prevalent, the associated shipping charges gave local stores some relief.

That said, local businesses today need to take a closer look at the online marketplace to determine the average prices of products they sell, and adapt their own prices as best they can to be more in line with other retailers.

Alternatively, local businesses can make clear in their mobile advertising why buying from their store at higher prices has added benefits (more experienced staff, savings on shipping, immediate availability, better customer service, longer warranties, better deals for bulk purchases, etc.).

Local businesses should also look into posting coupons on their social media channels, featuring daily deals on sites like Groupon or LivingSocial, and other tactics that raise visibility for price-related incentives in the mobile space.

  • About 9.1% of mobile shoppers research product features and 8% check product availability at specific stores. Local businesses should build their mobile sites with these considerations in mind as well.

5. Ensure In-Store Visits Result In Sales

Mobile consumers aren’t just using their devices as pre-purchase tools prior to arriving at stores – but also once they’re in stores. According to the IAB report’s comScore data:

  • Nearly 20% of mobile shoppers text or call family and friends to discuss a product, while 14.2% take a picture of a product and 11.6% send a picture of a product to family and friends.

Local businesses should think of ways to enable mobile shoppers to provide compelling cases to those they call about why the products they want to buy are worth it. For example, local businesses should provide compelling top-line summaries of products on shelves that shoppers can easily read over the phone.

They can also display QR codes for mobile shoppers to scan that allows them to easily send high-resolution images and other information that makes the products in question look their best.

  • More than 7% of mobile shoppers scan a product barcode to check product information, and more importantly, check prices. This new price check method is a major issue for local businesses in that it requires them to compete even more directly with big online retailers immediately prior to the point of sale.

In fact, Amazon is under fire from local businesses concerned with its new price match app, which beginning this past Saturday offers shoppers a 5% discount (up to $15) for using its app in brick-and-mortar stores. Of  more concern, the app collects information about in-store prices, giving Amazon a good sense of where to price products so they beat out local businesses’ prices.

As a result, local businesses not only need to work overtime to ensure that their prices are competitive, they also need to find additional ways to incent their customers and convince them that their higher prices are worth it, as described earlier. Also, local businesses should consider noting on store shelves that they are willing to negotiate or match prices based on what consumers find using their mobile price check app.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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