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How the mobile customer experience is driving holiday sales

Mobile sales are expected to dominate holiday shopping this year. According to an eMarketer report, the eCommerce market is expected to reach $666 billion in the U.S. in 2021 and $845 billion by 2022, with mobile purchases driving almost 50% of those sales.

Continuing the trend of the previous years, consumers say they will do more of their shopping online (57%) than in stores (43%) this holiday season, according to PwC’s 2021 Holiday Outlook. As mobile integration continues to shape the shopping experience of the future, the demand for an easily accessible and convenient shopping experience will continue to grow.

“Typically, the omnichannel shopper is more engaged,” says Allison Stone, assurance senior manager at PwC. “They are researching and interacting with products in stores and online so when it comes time to buy, they are confident in their decision and tend to spend more money,” Stone adds.

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The proof is in the ‘figgy’ pudding. According to the Influencer Marketing Factory’s Status of Social Commerce Report 2021, younger shoppers are favoring online shopping to make their purchases, and social media is playing a significant role in those purchasing decisions. A staggering 97% of Gen Z consumers use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration.

With so many items just a click away to purchase, brands are under increased pressure this holiday season to make their mobile customer experience more appealing and easier to navigate. Here are three key strategies to help make that happen.

1. Use social media to drive traffic

As the line between social media and online shopping continues to blur, social channels, like Instagram, are driving more and more traffic to eCommerce sites, says Rick Kenney, former head of consumer insights at Salesforce. “Instagram is a much more appropriate channel for retailers to express themselves and incorporate links to buy while showing off the product.”

The increase is likely thanks in part to an easier shopping process implemented by the app. Previously, when consumers saw a product they liked, they would have to leave the Instagram app, open a new web browser and search for the item to find it, resulting in a disjointed customer journey.

Now, with shoppable posts and “buy” buttons, brand ambassadors and influencers can post photos of themselves wearing a brand’s clothing and accessories, and consumers can simply tap the photo to access a link where they can buy the items. In 2020, Instagram replaced its ‘Activity’ tab with ‘Shop’ in the main navigation. This addition to the platform enables users to browse shoppable products by categories, or simply search for an item by keyword.

Other popular social media platforms, like TikTok, are also proving to be successful drivers of online purchases. With over 1 billion annual users worldwide, the platform has transformed from lip dub videos and dance trends to a source of shopping inspiration for various demographics. According to Forbes, the hashtag #tiktokmademebuyit has upwards of 2.3 billion views on the social media platform. In a similar fashion to Instagram, TikTok creators are able to add a shopping tab to their profiles that allows other users to browse products within the app and easily navigate to the creator’s online store for an effortless checkout. TikTok has been so successful in influencing consumer behavior that its has contributed to product shortages — an example being the feta cheese shortage of 2021.

2. Incorporate mobile wallets

With consumers looking for convenience and faster mobile checkout, expect to see an increased use of mobile wallets during this holiday shopping season.

According to eMarketer, there will be about 6.5 million new mobile wallet users per year from 2021 to 2025. Shoppers who use Apple Pay can complete their transactions 90 seconds faster because it eliminates several steps in the checkout process, says Kenney.

However, savvy brands need to do more than just offer an option to pay with PayPal or Apple Wallet alongside the option to pay by credit card. For instance, footwear company Johnston and Murphy offers the mobile wallet option within its shopping cart, not at the end of their shopping experience, allowing the customer to accelerate the checkout process, Kenney adds.

Retailers should be aware that many shoppers might only have a few minutes to shop online, especially if they’re squeezing in a purchase while waiting in line for their morning latte. “You want the shopper to make the purchase while they are interested, otherwise they might abandon the cart,” he says.

3. Use artificial intelligence to drive purchases

When purchasing items online, consumers expect that the information they are provided is accurate and relevant to their needs. As a result, more brands are using artificial intelligence (AI) to select and connect products to shoppers. This is becoming a massive point of sale for retailers, with 30% of all revenue coming from shoppers purchasing an item recommended by the site, according to Kenney.

“AI is getting better and retailers are adopting better, deeper and more relevant uses throughout their sites,” Kenney says. The mobile-first tools that incorporate AI will continue to be important retail revenue drivers for years to come.

As mobile continues to transform the way customers interact with brands, consumers will expect shopping experiences that are more convenient, faster and increasingly personalized. Savvy brands that incorporate mobile-friendly touch points throughout the customer journey will dominate this holiday season.

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