Social media and mobile applications reportedly have an outsize influence on shopping behavior -- and many companies have shaped their online experiences accordingly in the last few years. Now shoppers and retailers are both looking to the next stage in this evolution. Marrying online and offline experiences maybe the key, according to reports from Adly and Cisco.
Showrooming Not a Dirty Word
Holiday shoppers want to be able to browse online networks while shopping in stores, a joint Cisco and Zogby report found. Additionally, retailers like Walmart and Target are focused on getting customers into stores using more targeted coupons and promotions, according to a report from Adly, an advertising technology company. Taken together, we see a pattern of tactics that could boost both holiday shopping revenues and customer satisfaction.
Adly is a service that uses celebrity sponsored social media messages to promote particular products and services, CEO Walter Delph said in an interview. Celebrities drive sales on offline traffic, Delph said, and Adly works with a mix of musicians, athletes and actors and actresses.
"When it comes to social media, people are four times more likely to follow a brand if they follow a celebrity," Delph said.
That means they are more receptive to online offers and promotions, something shoppers are hyper aware of when they are in a store and browsing their mobile devices. In fact, 95 percent of 18 to 24 year olds want holiday discounts/coupons via text or smartphone apps, Cisco found in its latest shopping research. Furthermore, more than 60 percent of those surveyed choose stores because of the online services they offer, the report found.
Retailers who offer things like Wi-Fi or the ability to order out of stock items while in the store will attract more people, Cicso found. Unfortunately for retailers, however, only 29 percent of 18 to 24 year olds have actually used a retailer's app on their smartphone.
Leading up to Black Friday 2013, Walmart and Target are using social media to promote special offers in different ways. Walmart is much more active on Twitter than Target, for example, even though it has half as many followers. While Target is not as active, its messages appear to be more engaging, Adly found, despite how focused Walmart has been on Black Friday in particular. Adly analyzed Target and Walmart's twitter feed for 30 days leading up to Black Friday.
Black Friday Shoppers Prefer Online to In-Store
Companies like Adly and Cisco are focused on the offline and online experience marriage for a reason. Shoppers are largely avoiding stores on Black Friday in favor of an entirely virtual experience, reports from comScore and Nielsen found.
For example, 85 percent of the 22,000 people surveyed said they were avoiding stores on Black Friday, the Nielsen Holiday Spending Forecast found, and nearly half of consumers will shop online on Cyber Monday instead. ComScore is predicting a strong holiday shopping season, but noted retailers may be missing out on shoppers who prefer a mobile experience. Mobile commerce is significantly outpacing e-commerce and brick and mortar spending, comScore found, a trend that will only continue to grow.
That is why companies like Walmart are staying open on Thanksgiving. They want to give shoppers every opportunity to cash in on early bird specials and sales. This tactic in particular may not have the desired effect unless those in store experiences can match or at least incorporate online experiences.
Retailers like Trunk Club, a specialty men's clothing firm, are extremely focused on maximizing online experiences, so much so it doesn't treat Black Friday as different from any other day of the year, a spokesperson told CMSWire at the recent Dreamforce 2013 conference.
Because Trunk Club's clients aren't really bargain shoppers, the spokesperson said, Black Friday causes a minimal spike in sales. For those retailers that do depend so much on post-Thanksgiving Day sales, using targeted social media messages and mobile applications look to be some of the most effective ways to get shoppers into their stores.