December 9, 2013, 8:25 AM

Mobile shoppers get special holiday offers

An Internet Retailer study shows some top mobile merchants are currying favor with mobile shoppers.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

TV, web and mobile retailer HSN Inc. has been giving consumers shopping on smartphones and tablets a leg up on non-mobile shoppers this holiday season. For example, HSN sent texts to mobile phone-toting customers enrolled in its text message program and push notifications to users of its smartphone and tablet apps giving the mobile consumers exclusive advance notice of Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales. Mobile traffic that weekend exceeded 50% of all web traffic that weekend, a first for HSN, No. 9 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 500.

Mobile commerce plays a key role in HSN’s marketing strategy, says Edward Deutscher, operating vice president, digital technology. Mobile sales were strong leading into the holidays, up 57% in the third quarter, year over year, Deutscher says. By mid-September, HSN had eclipsed the $167 million in mobile sales it generated for all of 2012, he adds.

HSN is offering a mobile coupon ($20 off $40) to new customers throughout the holiday season. Mobile customers can win prizes for watching featured video content. And the merchant offers a mobile-exclusive sweepstakes where shoppers can win a $3,000 HSN shopping spree; HSN is promoting the sweepstakes through mobile display ads.

“Mobile extends and deepens our customer relationships,” Deutscher says. “Mobile customers are an integral part of our business success and we want to ensure we offer them a boundaryless shopping experience.”

Internet Retailer conducted a study of the top 100 merchants in the 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500 to see how they were using the mobile channel during the holidays. While most of the retailers are striving to maintain consistency throughout their digital offerings, some are treating their mobile shoppers to exclusive deals and special site or app features.

Groupon has presented some mobile-only holiday offers, including a $10 Target gift card for $6 in select markets. The merchant also is sending holiday-themed push notifications through its apps, which have been downloaded more than 60 million times, Groupon says. Push alerts, for example, have included “Skip the lines! Get Black Friday doorbuster deals on Groupon. Shop now!” and “Want great Cyber Monday deals? Check Groupon first. Shop now!”

More than 50% of Groupon’s total traffic and sales during Thanksgiving Weekend stemmed from mobile devices. Groupon Goods is No. 5 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 500.

RueLaLa.com also is sending app users push notifications during the holidays. “You Heard It Here First” push messages notify app users of time-sensitive sales before all Rue La La members are notified via e-mail. More than 50% of RueLaLa.com’s total traffic and sales during Thanksgiving Weekend came from mobile devices.

While most top 100 mobile retailers keep consistent, familiar designs and offers across PC and mobile channels, some do tweak their mobile sites and apps to better serve consumers on smaller screens. Tory Burch LLC, No. 70 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 500, has created a commerce site using responsive web design, which enables retailers to build a single site with a single code base and single set of web content that renders to fit the size of a screen. On larger screens, a hero image highlighting “Tory’s Gift Guide” includes an embedded box with a Shop Now button that breaks out to include subordinate links such as Most Wanted Gifts, Gifts by Category and Gifts by Price. When the site is viewed on a smartphone, only the Shop Now button is featured; that leads to easy-to-tap images that help mobile shoppers more easily drill down.

Target Corp. has been giving mobile commerce some special attention this holiday season. Target developed two mobile-optimized Facebook applications, one that offered Black Friday ad leaks and one that will award mobile shoppers with gift cards this month. The Target mobile shopping app features holiday mobile coupons, which customers use by having a cashier in-store scan their phones at checkout. Target tells Internet Retailer that mobile traffic exceeded 50% of all web traffic throughout the Thanksgiving Weekend, a first for the merchant, No. 36 in the Mobile 500.

But most top retailers in mobile commerce are offering mobile site and app designs and promotions consistent with the designs and offers on their desktop e-commerce sites, the Internet Retailer study finds. E-commerce and m-commerce chiefs say it is important to provide consistent and seamless shopping across digital channels because customers expect it.

“We want all of our members to experience Rue La La seamlessly across devices,” says Gerry McGoldrick, vice president of marketing and mobile chief at members-only e-retailer RueLaLa.com. “During the busy holiday season, we aim to keep things simple and streamlined for our members, and we believe the key to that is a seamless, consistent, familiar experience. Our members experience Rue La La from different touch-points—iPhone, iPad, Android, apps, desktops—and we want them to be able to pick up where they left off from any device.”

This is indeed a key consideration for retailers. Google Inc. research shows that 85% of online shoppers start shopping on one device and finish on another.

“By and large the offerings and marketing that Target has on its desktop web site and in stores are consistent on mobile,” a Target spokesman says. “We want the mobile experience to feel connected and seamless for guests, who are increasingly moving between various channels.”

Timed to coincide with the start of holiday shopping, ShopHQ (formerly ShopNBC.com) last month unveiled mobile apps for iPad and Android tablets. Like most other top mobile retailers, ShopHQ believes in consistency between e-commerce and m-commerce. However, it does offer mobile shoppers a bonus. When mobile shoppers use the Watch Now feature to view the ShopHQ television network live feed on their devices, they are presented with content related to what's on the air, including some enhanced content not available on the desktop.

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