Mobile devices: The new marketing frontier from Black Friday to Cyber Monday

"Consumers are looking to shop on their own terms - whenever and wherever," noted eBay comms chief Dan Tarman.

With mobile devices fast becoming the prime shopping platform for Americans, major retailers targeted their marketing efforts throughout the Black-Friday-to-Cyber-Monday shopping flurry directly at consumers’ phones and tablets.

Dan Tarman, eBay’s SVP and CCO, told PRWeek that technology – in particular mobile – is changing the face of retail. Between Thanksgiving and the following Sunday, eBay’s mobile GMB (gross merchandise bought) share versus desktop increased an average of 12% from 2014. In addition, the average eBay mobile GMB share from Thanksgiving Day through Saturday was 45%, he added.

Last year, during the holiday season, more than 60% of Amazon customers shopped using a mobile device, said Craig Berman, Amazon’s VP of global communications. He said he expects that number to be higher this year, but does not yet have the data.

"Mobile is making it easier for shoppers to stay connected to the deals and gifts they wanted," Tarman explained. "Consumers are looking to shop on their own terms – whenever and wherever." 

That’s why, for the first time, Amazon pushed exclusive deals via its mobile shopping app over the holiday season, providing more than 150 "handpicked, lightning" sales, such as a $149 50-inch HDTV, to customers who had downloaded the app.

Target also slashed some toy prices by 10% for customers who created wish lists in its Target Kids app, while Best Buy’s app let customers call local salespeople at the touch of a button.

"We have definitely been communicating to customers more about the convenience of using our mobile features to be able to shop where they are," said Berman. "We talk about the utility of being able to use the Amazon shopping app, but we also talk about new innovations like [one-hour delivery service] Prime Now. In order to use Prime Now, you have to download the app and order from your phone."

From a marketing perspective, eBay created a Wish Bigger Hub, a one-stop-shop for its holiday deals and promotions, which launched the first week of November. EBay also created a digital wishbone for Thanksgiving as a digital play on the tradition and a holiday heatmap that showed what was trending in each state.

"All of our deals are accessible directly under the ‘shop’ tab in our mobile apps, with curated sections to help serve as inspiration when shopping," said Kari Ramirez, eBay’s communications manager for North America. "From a marketing perspective, we invested in digital, including video, display ads, social media, and streaming radio partnerships." 

But as mobile devices become the go-to shopping platform, consumers and retailers alike must be wary of data theft and imitators. Hackers created a phony Amazon app last week, promising customers early Black Friday deals.

Another trend Tarman said he is noticing is that consumers are looking for deals, promotions, and bargain prices throughout the holiday season – not just on specific days. However, he said Cyber Monday is still relevant, for now.

"Consumers are continuing to shop even earlier," said Tarman. This year, for instance, eBay consumers started shopping the last week of October.  Last year’s data was not readily available for comparison.

EBay also conducted a survey this year with market research company TNS that found that the number of people waiting to start shopping in December decreased by 7% year-over-year.

"We’ve always looked at Black Friday to Cyber Monday as a ‘season’ in that we’ve seen customers start to get tuned in to deals [during the last week of November] each year," Berman said. "This year, we started our deals earlier than ever."

More Americans are turning to online and mobile shopping, with 103 million people shopping online, compared with 102 million pursuing the aisles in stores over the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation’s Thanksgiving Weekend Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. However, Berman said online retailer Amazon does not fear the competition.

"I don’t think there has been a day when retail wasn’t really competitive; we have grown up in a hyper competitive environment," Berman said. "It hasn’t changed the way we communicate or market. We have stayed true to being concise and precise about comms to customers about coming to Amazon and finding a massive selection of whatever you are looking for at a low price and getting it to them really fast."

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