Will Mobile Be on Retailers’ “Naughty” or “Nice” Lists This Holiday Shopping Season?


The 2012 holiday shopping season has arrived. No, really. You read that right.

Last week, the National Retail Federation announced the findings of their holiday consumer spending survey. Among many interesting insights, their survey found that:

  • More than 40% of Americans will start their holiday shopping before Halloween.
  • More than half will shop for gifts online, and the average American will complete 38.8% of their shopping online, a survey high.
  • Smartphone and tablet users are even more inclined to shop via their devices, with more than half of smartphone owners and nearly two-thirds of those who own tablets planning to research and purchase holiday items online.
  • More than 30% of American shoppers will comparative shop online more often to get the best price.

Leading retailers are making aggressive moves to discourage “showrooming” this holiday season, with brands like Best Buy announcing holiday “Price Match Guarantee” programs that promise to beat online prices for select items. While some analysts have expressed concern that these holiday price matching programs may actually encourage “showrooming” and online shopping, the holiday 2012 shopping season may provide retailers new ways to deepen their engagement with customers and encourage multichannel shopper loyalty.

During a panel discussion at the GigaOM “Mobilize” conference last month, Walmart SVP of Mobile and Digital Gibu Thomas shared that Walmart is on the “offensive in trying to give customers the choices that they want so that they don’t rely on third [parties],” through its Walmart Labs. The company has introduced an “In-Store Mode” for their app with geofencing capability to highlight in-store savings real time, and is piloting iPhone item scan and check-out. Target also recently announced their own “Holiday Price Match” program, and that they are piloting wayfinding technology in some locations that can help guide customers to holiday must-haves using smartphone geolocation technology.

When asked what the future of mobile-first in-store retail experience might include, Mr. Thomas named infrastructure – and the implementation of Wi-Fi – as the first priority in delivering the multichannel shopping experience that today’s consumers are looking for.

As Barnes & Noble’s Marc Parrish shared at “Mobilize,” “mobile is here to stay…and [retailers] better see it as a friend.”

Boingo’s own Joe DeStasio recently shared with Retailer Merchandiser his thoughts on the ways that retailers can embrace the smartphone-toting shopper, and ultimately establish a closer connection and provide better service to them through their Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices.

Joe asserts in this piece that “mobile devices, which are occasionally seen as an enemy in malls and store aisles, actually provide truly limitless opportunities to engage with customers in new and personalized ways,” providing a deeper understanding of shopper needs, and the chance to offer them a more meaningful shopping experience via loyalty programs and feature-rich native apps.

This holiday shopping season may provide a proving ground for many new ways to reach customers and turn browsing into buying.

Be sure to check out Joe’s article in Retail Merchandiser here, and the fascinating “The State of SoLoMo and the In-Store Experience” “Mobilize” video here.

Do you think that mobile and online shopping will be on retailers’ “naughty” or “nice” lists this year? What’s the most interesting use of mobile that you’ve seen at retail so far this holiday season?


About Melody Demel

Melody is Senior Manager, PR for Boingo Wireless, where she is responsible for media relations, brand building and thought leadership initiatives. Melody is a die-hard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and retired NCAA DI college field hockey player.
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