More than ever this holiday season, smartphones and tablets are the way to shop. Thanksgiving weekend set records for mobile sales and traffic, accounting for nearly 40% of online traffic on Black Friday and nearly a third of all online traffic on Cyber Monday, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.
"This is really the year that mobile has tipped for consumers," says Alexis Rask, chief revenue officer for start-up Shopkick, a mobile shopping app that gives users points for walking into partner retailers. The points can then be redeemed for gift cards.
Retailers are responding by pushing holiday-themed apps, social-media hashtags, and Pinterest boards that encourage participation and purchases.
Target created its entire holiday campaign around the hashtag #MyKindofHoliday, encouraging followers to share photos of their favorite holiday moments on Instagram and Twitter and creating social media-inspired TV spots. One ad brings a woman's holiday Pinterest board to life with Target merchandise.
A gaming app has users build a virtual Christmas tree. Through Dec. 14, users are entered to win gift cards every time they add ornaments to the tree or invite friends to participate. Target will give away 40 $25 gift cards a day and a $500 grand prize.
Jeff Jones, Target's chief marketing officer, says social media provides the "sweet spot" for any campaign: "Drive traffic to the site or store, deepen engagement, and strengthen their love for our brand."
On social media, interaction and conversation can be just as powerful to customers as discounts because human beings love to participate, says Daina Middleton, global CEO of marketing agency Performics.
"It's no longer enough to just send customers a message," she says. "It's really important to involve them in the process."
By constantly giving shoppers a way to interact on mobile apps and social media, retailers will grow their business, she says.
"That's a really cool part of mobile," Rask says. "You can be sort of pleasantly interruptive in a nice way that might change behavior or inspire something unplanned."
Walmart is pushing Facebook mobile advertising for the first time to drive downloads of the Walmart app, says spokesman Ravi Jariwala.
The strategy seems to be working. Online traffic growth from the Walmart app more than doubled from last year over the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, Jariwala says.
"The news feed is really now the digital aisle where users get to discover products," says Nicolas Franchet, Facebook's head of retail and e-commerce. Facebook accounts for 23% of time spent on apps, according to ComScore data.
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