The final numbers are in for the holiday season, and merchants have reason to be optimistic as they head into the New Year — especially when it comes to mobile sales, which showed vast improvement compared with 2015.
For the period starting December 28 and ending January 3, overall online revenues rose 9% year over year on traffic gains of 24%. Those gains closely tracked results for the season as a whole (from the Monday before Thanksgiving through Sunday, January 3), which saw online sales improve 8% on a traffic increase of 21%.
Both in the post-holiday period and during the season overall, smartphone growth dominated the results. While traffic to eCommerce sites from smartphones rose only incrementally year over year, smartphone revenues shot up 45% in the post-season and 50% overall. The increased smartphone revenue was due in part to strong gains in smartphone average order value, which rose by 9% to over $140 — just $10 behind desktop AOV.
The results speak to marked improvement in mobile shopping experiences compared with last year, when a significant number of brand sites still hadn’t been optimized for mobile users. Now, with solid gains to show for their 2015 last year’s mobile initiatives, merchants should feel confident going back to the table to fight for further investment.
The budget battle is worth having, because further improvements to the smartphone experience will be crucial in 2016. The functional but workmanlike mobile sites we encountered in our holiday surveys are by and large ill-equipped to meet rising consumer expectations for cross-screen relevance. In particular, merchants need to invest in:
Smartphone-targeted presentation, even with responsive design. While we’re strong advocates of responsive design for the access to optimized checkout and deep product content it has the potential to bring, that benefit has a corresponding potential drawback — the tendency to remove any specialized consideration for smartphone users’ needs beyond fitting content and offers to their screens. Designing truly differentiated experiences within a responsive framework — for example, by moving functions such as the store locator and click-to-call customer service front and center — requires significant coding prowess, it’s a necessary investment if merchants are to prove their brand’s relevance to smartphone shoppers.
Video-first content. With a third of video views occurring on mobile devices and with video an increasingly popular format for social networking, which is primarily conducted on mobile devices, merchants who provide ample video content are priming themselves for relevance to smartphone users. MarketLive merchant Group Publishing, a seller of ministry materials for churches, featured video prominently on its mobile home page on Dec. 26 with a “Watch” button for the featured product.
In-store optimization. Smartphones play a crucial role as connectors between online research and offline browsing and buying. Merchants should do more to support connections to online content in stores and to tailor those online views according to shoppers’ preferences and past brand interactions. Empowering store associates to access online content and customer records is a fundamental first step, with cutting-edge technologies such as beacons promising to help merchants deliver ever-more-nuanced smartphone services as shoppers move through the store.
How are holiday results impacting your 2016 priority list?