Yes, People Shop on Their Phones Now. Get Used to It!

Every year for the past several years, pundits have been telling us that THIS was going to be the year of mobile (meaning smartphones!!) shopping. Those years never tended to live up to the hype. That is, until 2014.

A recent IBM study showed that 9.1 percent of all online sales during the holidays were conducted on a smartphone. To put that in context, that is a greater number than online’s percentage of total retail sales. That is how fast things are accelerating on the smartphone front when it comes to shopping.

I have seen these trends in our clients’ mobile shopping data as well. For the heaviest shopping days over the holidays, total click volumes in product listing ads (PLA) campaigns were actually higher for smartphones than desktop computers.

Consumers are searching for, looking at, and clicking extensively on specific products on their phones very frequently. Even if they don’t end up buying, they are deeply engaged in the shopping process while on their devices.

This huge growth in mobile commerce will certainly necessitate some significant changes to online marketing programs in 2015. Here are a few that will be critical to continued success:

Campaign Segmentation

While Google’s Enhanced Campaigns has made it more difficult to have mobile- and desktop-specific campaigns, the fact remains that mobile and desktop consumers behave and perform very differently. Add to that very large variations in how mobile sites fare at converting shoppers to purchase (on average we are seeing smartphone CRs about 30 to 40 percent of desktop), and it’s clear that these campaigns must be managed separately within AdWords and other publishers.

Mobile Shopping Experiences

Now that we know there is significant search and shopping activity on mobile devices, it is essential to optimize experiences and take advantage of that traffic. Conversion path should be clear with sizable font and imagery leading the way to purchase. However, not all of these consumers are looking to transact on their device, as indicated by earlier data which shows up to 50 percent of PLA clicks but less than 10 percent of overall revenue comes via smartphone. Therefore, mobile sites/apps should be location aware such that store locations, hours, and contact information are never difficult for consumers to find.

Locally Relevant Ads

If 2014 was the year mobile commerce transactions exploded, 2015 will be the year of the locally relevant ad experience. Products like Google’s Local Inventory Ads can drive substantial traffic to local stores from mobile devices, while companies like Yext seek to tackle the issue of inaccurate and stale business listings popping up all over the place. At the very least, marketers with physical locations need to be very cognizant of how the store side of their business is being represented on mobile devices. These new and exciting ad products can help them influence these mobile shoppers and present in-store options to satisfy purchase intent.


With all of this shopping activity going on at all hours of the day and night, it makes sense to try to encourage customers who are currently near to store to come in and transact now. By drawing a fence around your physical locations, marketers can tailor offers and messages to those who are in that fence vs. those who are currently outside of it. This is a great strategy for announcing special events or promotions, but also to quickly move seasonal or distressed inventory from stores.

If 2014 was the year of the mobile consumer, then 2015 is poised to be the year of the mobile marketer. Start with some of these techniques to ensure that customers’ shift from desktop to mobile doesn’t also signal a profit shift from green to red.

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