January 31, 2014, 12:16 PM

Fans mobilize for Super Bowl shopping

Nearly three-quarters of searches on sporting goods  and team apparel retail sites in advance of game day this year were on mobile devices, according to study by SLI Systems. Fans are also buying big-ticket items—like TVs and gaming consoles—from their smartphones this year, the CEO of comparison shopping site and app BuyVia says.

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Although their team allegiances may clash, there’s one thing this year’s diehard football fans have in common: They shop on mobile devices. Nearly three-quarters—72%—of searches on the e-commerce sites of major sporting goods and team apparel retailers in the week of Jan. 20 came from a smartphone or tablet, according to site search vendor SLI Systems, which monitored 160,000 searches.  SLI did not immediately offer an explanation for this striking mobile statistic.

The search volume was highest on the first three days immediately following the playoffs, which concluded before Jan. 20, SLI says. On those days, the retail sites had three to four times as many searches, including from PCs, than on the remaining days of the week. SLI says many consumers were searching for jerseys, hats and shirts with the logos of the Seattle Seahawks, the National Football Conference champion, and American Football Conference champ Denver Broncos. Those teams will meet in the Super Bowl on Sunday after eliminating the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, respectively.

“Search and shopping activity for both Super Bowl XLVIII teams spiked immediately after the NFC and AFC champions were determined almost two weeks ago,” says Tim Callan, chief marketing officer for SLI Systems. “Not surprisingly, searches for 49ers and Patriots fan items almost completely dropped off within a day or two of both teams losing their bids for the Super Bowl.”

Consumers aren’t just browsing Super Bowl deals on mobile devices this year, they’re buying too. According to BuyVia, a web site and mobile app for comparison shopping, consumers in November and December began buying expensive items—of $100 or more—from their smartphones and tablets. “Unlike last year when we didn’t record any of these purchases leading up to Super Bowl time, it’s an indicator of a notable behavioral shift, a willingness to buy big-ticket items like large-screen TVs digitally with mobile devices,” says Norman Fong, CEO and co-founder of BuyVia.

Shoppers who clicked or tapped through BuyVia to purchase a TV most often went to the sites of Best Buy Co. Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart.com, the comparison shopping vendor says, without providing details. Most of those sales happened on smartphones, Fong adds, declining to share the breakdown between smartphones and tablets. He hypothesizes that more limited-time deals, many lasting just a few hours, are encouraging shoppers to purchase from their smartphones while on the go. “Some of the items, especially the next-generation game consoles and Black Friday deals, require people to jump on deals immediately, not wait until they get home,” he says.

E-retailers have been heavily promoting this week, in the run-up to the Super Bowl. Online retailers offering game-related deals on TVs in the past week include Sears Holdings Corp., Best Buy, Target Corp., Walmart.com and Amazon. Deals on other products that a committed fan might seek, for instance a team jersey, were promoted heavily on the home pages of such retailers as Fanatics, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nike and even HalloweenCostumes.com, which is highlighting its football costume uniforms and jerseys for humans and dogs.

U.S. consumers watching the Super Bowl on Sunday will spend $68.27 on average on game-day food, athletic wear, décor and TVs, for total spending of $12.3 billion, according to a poll of 6,417 consumers conducted Jan. 2-13 by Prosper Insights and Analytics on behalf of the National Retail Federation.

Overstock.com Inc. is using the game to play up a recent endorsement agreement it made with former NFL coach Mike Ditka, according to the retailer’s co-president Stormy Simon. The Man Cave Giveaway, featuring Ditka, offers consumers a chance to win $5,000 “to create your own game-day worthy man cave,” perhaps by using the funds to purchase a recliner, beer mugs, electronics or team décor. Overstock highlights several product categories that could help fill a man cave beneath the entry form. The giveaway opened for entries just after the playoffs on Jan. 20 and ends today, Simon says.

Shoppers sign up either via Facebook or by entering their names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers in a form on the e-commerce site. They are encouraged to refer friends to sign up, too, and each referral increases their chance to win, Simon says. “The consumer response has been very positive,” she says, without saying how many entries have come in.

Overstock's Ditka endorsement provided a nice tie-in to do a Super Bowl promotion this year, the retailer says. “It also provided an avenue for Overstock.com to show consumers that we offer a wide variety of products for a den, or ‘man cave,’” Simon says. “Although our target audience is female, we have items that male shoppers also find appealing.”

Retailers that don’t sell in categories obviously related to football or fandom have been—and should be—capitalizing on the consumer buzz by at least creating promo codes for Super Bowl offers online, says David Johnson, CEO of branding agency Strategic Vision LLC. For instance, he points to lingerie retailer Frederick’s of Hollywood Inc.’s e-mail campaign offering a coupon code to shoppers who are perhaps looking to divert attention from the big game to the bedroom.

Compared with last year, this Super Bowl will find more online retailers pushing consumers to their social media pages,  Johnson adds. “More and more people are getting their news and responding to ads via social media,” he says. “If you can get them to use hashtags, to start conversations, it converts to ROI.”

More than half of consumers—61%—will share Super Bowl ads on social media this year, predicts marketing technology provider Crowdtap, which surveyed 1,000 adults via its Social Influence Marketing Platform. In fact, 41.2% of respondents say they will use social media during the entire game, with 55.8% of those planning to share content primarily on Facebook, Crowdtap says.

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