More customers are using digital devices before and during their shopping journey, including smartphones but also tablets and laptop computers, and much more digital information is available to them. 

That was true when analysts at Deloitte Digital wrote those words late last year — and even more true today.

IBM mobile sale stats

According to IBM's Eighth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report (registration required), retailers have huge opportunities to capitalize in the 2015 holiday season as online consumer spending continues to soar.

In March, mobile traffic to US retail websites reached 47.4 percent — "a huge increase" from the 28.7 percent recorded in March 2013 by IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. The percent of mobile sales shows an even more pronounced leap. Mobile devices accounted for 24.4 percent of all retail e-commerce sales in March, nearly double the 12.5 percent of two years earlier, IBM reports. 

"Consumers are taking advantage of mobile devices for anywhere, anytime browsing of retail websites, though the majority of sales continue to occur on the larger screen real estate of desktop devices," the report noted.

With the holidays approaching, retailers should "innovate and optimize" their customer engagement strategies and tactics. That means understanding your customers, seamlessly engaging across all channels, creating exceptional mobile experiences and fueling innovation, productivity and results, IBM maintains.

Are you ready? In this final installment of a two-part series, we get advice from multiple experts.

The Question

How can you best reach your mobile customers this holiday season?

The Answers

Jonathan Hinz, Director, Trustpilot

Jonathan HinzHinz is director of strategic partnerships and business development at Trustpilot, an e-commerce review site. He's a veteran in the customer service industry, joining Trustpilot after more than 13 years leading customer relation and business development teams at Verizon. Tweet to Jonathan Hinz.

To reach mobile customers, companies must consider the mobile shopping habits of millennials and provide a seamless mobile shopping experience, great customer service and openly showcase their stellar reviews.

Millennials should be a major focus of brands’ mobile strategies this holiday season. Millennials are responsible for 21 percent of consumer purchases and are estimated to have more than a trillion dollars in direct buying power. Furthermore, a whopping four out of five millennials shop directly from mobile devices.

To keep millennials engaged and purchasing, companies should optimize the mobile shopping experience to make it easy, fast and informative. Millennials will not wait longer than five seconds on a mobile device for a page to load.

Make features on the site interactive and eye catching with clear images. And, provide all the information necessary to help mobile consumers make purchasing decisions, including feedback from a trusted third party source to validate product purchases.

Customer reviews are becoming increasingly important for e-commerce success, as 90 percent of millennials say that positive online reviews influence their buying decision. Additionally, reviews are becoming more popular among mobile users.

Brandon Logsdon, President and CEO, Excentus

Brandon Logsdon

With over 13 years of experience at Excentus, Logsdon led the development of a first-of-its-kind, nationwide coalition program while engaging in strategic relationships with cornerstone partners, Shell and MasterCard. In his role as CEO, he is also a member of the Excentus Board of Directors, and he oversees three strategic Excentus business units – the Fuel Rewards coalition program, our subsidiary Centego, which provides enabling technology and services for private-label fuel reward programs and managing the company's IP portfolio.

The holidays can be an odd combination of chaos, delight and overspending for customers, so companies should do whatever it takes to connect with customers as they're going through their holiday shopping routines.

First, help your customers save money, because all shoppers want the best deals during the holidays. In a previous holiday promotion, for example, we partnered with several popular merchants across retail and dining categories so that our members' ability to earn fuel savings was built right into their normal holiday shopping routines.

Secondly, we gave customers the ability to earn rewards through card-linked offers, meaning the frequent act of swiping a credit card automatically added rewards to their loyalty accounts.

Lastly, make sure you have a mobile app, because apps are playing increasingly larger roles in the shopping experience.

Apps provide the most rich and intimate opportunity to connect with your target audience, while enabling the delivery of instant, tailored notifications about sales, deals or holiday promotions – information that makes holiday shopping easier and less stressful.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and try to add the little touches that make holiday shopping fun and rewarding at the same time.

Moshe Kranc, CTO, Ness Software Engineering Services

moshe krancKranc serves as CTO for Teaneck, N.J.-based Ness Software Engineering Services, leading the company's strategy for digital transformation technologies and helping customers build solutions that capitalize on the digital economy. He previously headed the Big Data Centre of Excellence at Barclays Bank, and has led R&D teams at companies such as Zoomix (purchased by Microsoft) and NDS (purchased by Cisco). He was part of the Emmy award winning team that designed the scrambling system for DIRECTV and holds six patents.‚Äč Tweet to Moshe Kranc.

How can you best serve your mobile customers this holiday? Turn back the calendar six months! Seriously, it’s probably too late to impact this holiday season unless you’ve already made a start on the necessary activities:

  1. Start with an effective multichannel approach, where mobile is just one (very important) way that you communicate with your customer.
  2. Design the user experience so it is intuitive and frictionless, with as few steps as possible leading to the desired outcome. The easier it is to make a purchase, the more likely it is that the purchase will be made.
  3. Personalize the user experience, based on a 360-degree view of the user’s behavior and similarity to other liker-minded users.
  4. Provide exceptional online support, so your users don’t get lost in your mobile app even for an instant.
  5. Make sure you have the appropriate plumbing in place to support all of the above. The required technology stack includes a Web front-end framework (e.g., AngularJS), online transaction processing at web scale, and offline Big Data analytics.
  6. Work agile, not waterfall. Expect that requirements will change often, create prototypes in order to quickly get something in front of users, and expect to change course several times.
  7. If you do not have all the required skills in-house (and few retailers do) — get help.

Jeff Soriano, Senior Director, Offerpop

Jeff SorianoSoriano is senior director of demand generation for Offerpopprovider of a visual user-generated content marketing platform. A B2B demand generation expert, he has more than 10 years of experience working at leading Software-as-a-Service companies. He's led several strategic initiatives to develop go-to-marketing positioning and demand strategies for both emerging and established B2B organizations. Tweet to Jeff Soriano.

This holiday season, brands looking to connect with consumers on mobile need to put people at the center of their marketing strategy.

This requires marketers to take a step back, and evaluate exactly what individuals are doing on their mobile devices, and then build marketing campaigns aligned to those behaviors.

For example, consumers spend a significant proportion of their time on mobile devices creating content, like photos and videos; sharing content, like personality quizzes or contests; and interacting with the content their peers produce. This natural behavior has created an interesting reality for brands.

Consumers prefer and are increasingly turning to each other – not the brand – for inspiration throughout their buying journey.

In fact, this user-generated content (UGC) is outperforming brand-produced content in every way.

It's less expensive, more trusted and more memorable than brand-produced content. Likewise, e-commerce brands that leverage UGC for merchandising are seeing higher conversion rates. This doesn’t mean traditional content sources are going away all together, but their ability to reach and convert consumers is slowly dwindling, while UGC performance is continuing to grow.

As brands ramp up for this holiday season they need to put an emphasis on user-generated content and placing consumers at the heart of their marketing strategy.

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Title image by Jacob Sciacchitano.