The Holiday Season: Gone Mobile, And Well Under Way

Connor Bowlan

CEO at Cintric
Connor Bowlan is the CoFounder and CEO of Cintric, a consumer and location intelligence company. Cintric processes millions of location updates each day from over a quarter of a million people connected to the Cintric platform. Connor and his three co-founders started Cintric when they merged their consumer insight and location-based chat companies.

Connor’s previous company, Lookit, used crowdsourcing to generate product sentiment data on fashion and beauty items. Connor has also served as the CEO and CoFounder of a home-services startup, which sought to modernize existing small businesses with simple, web-based tools. Before entrepreneurship, he studied Sociology and Micro-Social Theory at University of California, Merced and the University of Botswana.

The Holiday Season: Gone Mobile, And Well Under Way

If you ain’t first you’re last
Ok, granted, Ricky Bobby isn’t considered one of the true thought leaders of this generation; however, the quote does carry weight. Especially when it comes to competition, regardless of the setting.

In this case, the battleground is retail. And the “Super Bowl” kicks off on "Black Friday" and lasts throughout the Holiday Season.

Before the Halloween costumes have been folded and put away, Christmas decorations dawned the shelves in stores everywhere. The holiday season is upon us.

With the holiday season comes joy, cheer, quality family time… oh, and stress. One of the biggest culprits of tension and anxiety (no, not the in-laws) is holiday shopping.

This time-consuming pastime is a marathon, not a sprint. Many retailers, and shoppers for that matter, have been preparing for weeks.

The official shopping season for most will begin on Black Friday; but like anything else, today, things begin sooner and sooner. In fact, according a September survey by MarketingLand, 59% of retailers began their holiday promotions before Labor Day. That’s three-and-a-half months of lead-time!

Read Also:
Big Data Will Create Its Own Version Of Retail Therapy

Those months are in preparation of the biggest shopping weekend of the year, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So much preparation should lead to results for retailers. According to the same survey, 82% of retailers expect sales to increase; 21% of those expect holiday sales to increase over 15% from last year.

One of those retailers getting ahead is K-Mart, who released their “Not a Christmas Commercial” below, in September.


So to say that expectations are high is an understatement. However, as we have seen in the past few years, the rise of mobile search and spending has played a huge role not only in retailer’s revenue, but also their marketing budgets.

Past Trends

In 2014 people used their mobile devices more than ever, a trend that will only grow over the next few months. IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark reported that Thanksgiving weekend last year, now dubbed “Cyber Week”, set records for mobile sales and traffic. In fact, mobile traffic accounted for nearly 40% of online traffic on “Black Friday “and over 30% on “Cyber Monday.”

How does that compare? Five years ago, mobile accounted for just 4% of traffic on “Cyber Monday.” Cyber Week has changed everything however, and we will see how much those numbers jump this season in just a few weeks. The appeal? Consumers can shop deals on their phones, tablets and computers in the comfort of their own homes, instead of facing overcrowded brick-and-mortar locations.

The pie charts below shows online shopping by device for the past two holiday seasons.

Read Also:
Internet of Things brings new era of weather forecasting

As you can see, mobile shopping increased by nearly 6% last year, a number that is expected to grow even more this year. Now that 6% might not jump off of the page at first… but take into account that holiday e-commerce spending in 2014 was $101.9 billion; therefore, the 6% increase from 2013 to 2014 meant increasing mobile sales from $16 billion in 2013 to $25 billion last year.

Some stores had more online success than others last year, one of those being Target. During November and December last year, Target said that mobile traffic made up 60% of Target.com traffic. Some other Target facts for 2014 include:

  • Black Friday weekend purchases made via mobile phones were 2x higher than 2013
  • Cartwheel, Target’s digital coupon app, added 2 million new users over the holiday period and surpassed $1 billion in promotional sales since it launched
  • Target.com store-pickup orders hit a new record high on Thanksgiving Day
  • Store maps in Target’s new iPhone app were accessed more than 400,000 times

Getting Ahead Of The Holiday Curve

Retailers are trying to capitalize on mobile opportunities in every way imaginable, by building applications and mobile websites to better connect to their customers.

Over the past few years, one of the biggest changes in mobile marketing strategies has been in part due to geofencing. This form of location intelligence enables retailers to offer tailored alerts and push notifications through the app or text message to customers when they are in proximity to their stores. The end result, ideally, is for the consumer to act on the said promotion, driving traffic and revenue into the brick-and-mortar location.

In-Store Mode And “Showrooming”

With the growth of both mobile and e-commerce, many consumers today practice the shopping discipline of “showrooming.” Showrooming behavior is when customers enter brick-and-mortar stores to touch and feel the products, only to eventually purchase online. How prevalent is showrooming? Well, 44% of smartphone owners say that they have engaged in the behavior. Mobile allows customers to research products and allows them to find the cheapest prices. The escalation of this shopping trend had been a significant reason of constant online revenue growth throughout the holiday shopping season.

Read Also:
This New Mapping Tool is a Data Lover's Dream

As customer’s location information has become more and more prevalent, many companies, like Wal-Mart, have been working on capturing the “in store” customer via their apps. By recognizing when a shopper has entered a retailer’s store, merchants are able to provide more context, which addresses the showrooming behavior.

Personalization Is Key

In any sales environment, it is crucial to understand your customer; with that, mobile marketing is no different. Uniting offline and online experiences is important for retailers, but its no the only thing. Retailers must be able to take the data they get from their mobile and online customer and leverage it to provide relevant experiences. By capturing data throughout the customer journey, retailers can create customer personas to make the shopping experience more enjoyable and appropriate for their customers.



When it comes to retailers, the holiday season is the Holy Grail -- the be all end all -- and for good reason. Retailers are depending on strong holiday performance. 74% of retailers said at least 20% of annual sales come during the holiday season

Labor Day used to mark the ceremonial “end of summer;” however, now it is when retailers begin gearing up their holiday marketing efforts.

Why so soon? Well because it works... And, of course, "if you ain’t first, you’re last".


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *