Shop­pers to see four changes when buy­ing on phones

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY ANNE D’INNOCENZIO

NEW YORK | Shop­pers buy­ing on their phones this hol­i­day sea­son will see new ways stores are mak­ing it eas­ier and faster as they try to lock in sales be­fore peo­ple swipe to the next site.

“It’s not just a shop­per’s tool,” said Ta­mara Gaffney, prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst and di­rec­tor at Adobe Dig­i­tal In­sights, the re­search arm of Adobe Sys­tems. “It’s now so em­bed­ded in our ex­is­tence we don’t even think about the fact that we pulled out our phone and bought things.”

Mo­bile shop­ping ac­counted for $4.61 bil­lion in sales from Thanks­giv­ing through Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to Adobe Dig­i­tal In­sights. Some 54 per­cent of vis­its to re­tail­ers’ sites and 36 per­cent of sales for the five-day pe­riod came from phones and tablets.

Here are four ways smart­phones are chang­ing the way peo­ple shop — and how re­tail­ers are re­spond­ing:

More im­pulse buy­ing: Mo­bile shop­ping en­tices peo­ple to buy right when they’re think­ing about it, Ms. Gaffney said, “It’s this sense of ur­gency.” She noted that re­tail­ers that had more mo­bile traf­fic en­joyed a 30 per­cent in­crease in on­line rev­enue.

Re­tail­ers need to make it eas­ier to find items so shop­pers don’t quickly move on.

“They want it fast,” said Peter Cobb, co­founder and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of eBags, which says mo­bile ac­counted for 43 per­cent of vis­its and 20 per­cent of sales for the five-day pe­riod. The hand­bags and lug­gage site now high­lights the top five sales hits to save peo­ple from sort­ing through 90,000 prod­ucts.

Fo­cused on deals: Even in an im­prov­ing econ­omy, shop­pers are fix­ated on deals — and mo­bile phones make it eas­ier to grab them.

Cus­tomers look to have spent nearly 3.5 per­cent less on av­er­age for the four-day week­end start­ing Thurs­day than a year ago, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted over the week­end by the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion trade group. Much of the drop had to do with the heavy dis­count­ing shop­pers de­mand. The NRF’s sur­vey showed more than 36 per­cent of shop­pers said ev­ery­thing they bought this past week­end was on sale, com­pared with 32.5 per­cent a year ago.

Re­tail­ers are shift­ing to a stream of dis­counts and alerts dur­ing the en­tire week via email and so­cial me­dia. Toys R Us is do­ing more flash sales, and eBags in­tro­duced a page called “Steals and Deals” high­light­ing items that are heav­ily dis­counted for a lim­ited time.

Mar­ket Track, which mon­i­tored nearly 1,500 prod­ucts on­line from Thanks­giv­ing through Cy­ber Mon­day, says stores changed prices more of­ten than last year, and more were low­ered than raised.

Seek­ing speed­ier ser­vice: Peo­ple buy­ing on the go want a swifter re­sponse when they need help.

“When you have shop­pers who are en­gaged, you have to try to cap­ture as much rev­enue as you can,” said Kevon Hills, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions at Stel­laSer­vice, which tracks cus­tomer ser­vice for re­tail­ers and on­line com­pa­nies.

Two years ago, 97 per­cent of re­tail­ers of­fered email as a way to in­ter­act with cus­tomers, but that fell to 81 per­cent head­ing into this hol­i­day sea­son, Stel­laSer­vice said. Some 90 per­cent use live chat, up from 80 per­cent two years ago. And in 61 per­cent of chat in­ter­ac­tions over the hol­i­day week­end, some­one re­sponded within 20 sec­onds, up from 45 per­cent a year ago.

Vis­it­ing stores for dif­fer­ent rea­sons: Even peo­ple who’d bought lots of items on their phones were spend­ing time in stores on Satur­day and Sun­day, said Mar­shal Co­hen, chief in­dus­try an­a­lyst at re­search firm NPD Group Inc.

“In the past, con­sumers did their re­search on­line and then pur­chased in-store, but brick and mor­tar stores are now crit­i­cal to con­sumers’ re­search needs,” he wrote in a blog post. He said “con­sumers came and bought, im­pul­sively and so­cially.”

Tech­nol­ogy be­yond shop­ping apps means peo­ple use stores dif­fer­ently.

“They do re­search on­line, com­pare prices, look for deals and even try on an out­fit and Snapchat it to a friend, all while in the store,” said Tom McGee, CEO of the mall group In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Shop­ping Cen­ters.

They’re also us­ing the phone to buy right in the store.

Many re­tail­ers be­lieve let­ting on­line shop­pers pick up their or­ders at stores is help­ing bring mo­bile shop­pers back.

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