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The Holiday Season Is Here. Are You Mobile-Ready?

It’s that time of the year again.

The back-to-school buying season is now a distant memory, and the biggest and busiest time of the year is on its way: holiday shopping. NRF reported an overall 4.6 percent year-over-year increase in retail holiday sales in 2014. And now retailers are putting the finishing touches on their holiday plans in anticipation of another successful selling season in 2015, which is already shaping up to be more fruitful than the last with sales projected to be as high as $965 billion between November and January.

Now more than ever shoppers are relying on smartphones for researching and tracking holiday purchases. One comScore study of almost 4,000 smartphone users found that 36 percent of U.S. smartphone users use devices while in stores in order to compare prices. It’s not news that the explosion of mobile has left brick-and-mortar retailers struggling to stay ahead of the curve. So in order to capitalize on the approaching holiday rush, what are savvy retailers to do?

1. Facilitate mobile payment methods. Mobile payments to national brands and local merchants are projected to grow from $52 billion in 2014 up to a whopping $143 billion by 2019, according to Forrester. The eruption of mobile payments is already here, and retailers unable to adapt will fall short. For this holiday season, mobile payment options are huge as time-crunched consumers crave convenience. With the launch of Apple Pay and more recently, Android Pay, mobile shoppers are seeking out retailers that offer these new payment methods.

In fact, more than half (53 percent) of U.S. consumers think it is important for retailers to enable smartphone payments, a survey by Wakefield Research revealed. The same survey noted that consumers prefer using mobile over traditional payment methods for speed of use and the freedom from carrying a wallet, along with the ability to access mobile deals and the relative safety of personal data. The message here: retailers need to facilitate mobile payment, or risk alienating eager mobile shoppers this season.

2. Take advantage of mobility sales. Consider implementing mobile-specific promotions that can link a customer’s mobile obsession with holiday shopping. One example: create an in-store device trade-in promotion that drives earlier smartphone upgrades. The idea of trading in devices for cash value has grown to become a high-value offering for consumers on the lookout for the latest tech at the lowest cost. Offering such a program close to the holidays gives retailers the ability to drive customers in-store, while building positive brand association as the customer gets extra cash that can be used to fund holiday purchases.

Retailers can further leverage their online presence to reach mobile customers by offering a mobile discount or deal that can then only be used in a store. In fact, nearly 80 percent of shoppers say they engage with a retailer or brand through digital channels before setting foot inside the store, according to research from Deloitte This type of holiday-specific deal will motivate mobile customers to go in-store, driving more foot traffic, with a mobile component that fully caters to their digital lifestyles.

3. Optimize websites for mobile. In today’s world mobile sites must be optimized with appropriate and worthwhile content aimed to help visitors on the go. The more useful a website’s content, the more likely a consumer will spend time on it. Shoppers will be on smartphones while in-store price shopping, sourcing friends and researching competitors. The aforementioned comScore study also found that 27 percent of consumers read customer reviews while in store aisles; 23 percent rely on call, e-mail or text for feedback on purchases; and 22 percent read product details on a device while in a store.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, this means websites must be mobile-friendly. With mobile optimization should also come the ability to convert, meaning purchasing through mobile should be an easy, seamless process. By creating mobile-friendly websites, retailers can deliver on a holiday shopper’s wish list for easy-to-find information, leading to improved customer satisfaction.

Ready or not, holiday shopping season is here and the time to prep for success is now. By adjusting the approach for targeting today’s mobile consumer with simple tactics like proper website optimization and allowing for mobile payments, retailers can leverage the merry and bright season for boosting sales, while improving customer loyalty.

Jeff Trachsel is chief marketing officer of NextWorth Solutions, which has provided turnkey in-store and online CE trade-in platforms for major retailers nationwide since 2006. NextWorth says its combination of expertise, team and platform is fundamentally changing the way consumers buy, own and disown electronics.