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A truly mobile Christmas? How mobile is playing a key role in retailers' Christmas campaigns

Shoppers are expected to shell out around £40bn this Christmas (according to a forecast from PatelMiller), and with more people than ever before using smartphones and tablets to browse the web, it’s not so much a white Christmas, but more of a mobile one.

In December 2012, the British Retail Consortium reported a 17.8 per cent increase in online sales, with shoppers taking advantage of the convenience of the internet. At the time, BRC director general Helen Dickinson attributed the rise to “the surging popularity of tablets and smartphones” along with growing consumer confidence in the security of mobile platforms.

This year, the volume of shoppers purchasing via mobile is set to increase dramatically once more. Adobe has predicted that smartphone shopping will grow by 97 per cent across the Christmas period in comparison with last year, with tablets growing 60 per cent, and 12.4 per cent of total European online sales expected to come via mobile, in an increase of almost 70 per cent year-on-year.

So what does this surge mean for marketers? Looking ahead to this Christmas, CEO and co-founder of mobile buying platform Adfonic Victor Malachard told The Drum marketers should be planning ahead for December’s ‘Twin Peaks’. According to Malachard, Adfonic data from the past three years has shown mobile click-through rates (CTRs) reaching two high points; one on the second Sunday of December, dubbed ‘Mobile Sunday’, and then again on Christmas Day, particularly in the morning.

Malachard is quite clear on the message for marketers, advising: “[Marketers must] plan for these peaks, perhaps shifting more mobile into the mix, and ‘joining the dots’ so that a campaign planned to hit Mobile Sunday could retarget users just before Christmas, with creatives that continue a constant theme throughout.”

New tablet launches from Argos, Tesco and Carphone Warehouse are predicted to have an impact on tablet penetration this year, with Adfonic suggesting this could reach 36 per cent in the Christmas quarter alone. As such Malachard suggests marketers would do well to consider the unique times people tend to use tablet devices as opposed to laptops, desktops and smartphones.

High street giant John Lewis is certainly embracing mobile technology this festive season with the department store predicting the UK’s first truly ‘mobile Christmas’. Online director Mark Lewis says: “Mobile is set to be the shining star of Christmas 2013. Shopping is becoming much more of a social experience with people browsing, purchasing and sharing ideas with others using their mobile phones and tablets. We expect this to increase dramatically during the festive period as customers shop on the go and we anticipate that Christmas Day will be the tipping point for mobile.”

John Lewis’ prediction that mobile traffic will overtake desktop coincides with the launch of a new transactional iPad app and the introduction of Wi-Fi in all John Lewis stores, making it easier for customers to browse the web. And despite customers being more likely to purchase lower value items on mobile Lewis notes “a significant proportion of customers purchasing big-ticket items”, with the largest mobile transaction totting up at £7,000 for a television.

Argos too is taking advantage of the proliferation of mobile this Christmas joining forces with augmented reality (AR) platform Blippar to enhance its Christmas gift guide and in-store experience. Using the Blippar app, smartphone and tablet users are able to buy directly from the guide by scanning the AR-enhanced pages. As well as ‘buy now’ functionality, Argos has offered customers additional mobile content including behind-the-scenes video footage from Emma Bunton’s baby range photo shoot, interactive competitions, and the chance to take a photo with the stars of Argos’ TV ad – the Argos Alien Family.

Bertrand Bodson, digital director at Argos, describes the addition of Blippar to the Christmas gift guide as a “springboard” enabling the retailer to “build a bridge between the traditional physical publication and the digital world where they can find even more choice adding whole new dimension to Christmas shopping.”

Ambarish Mitra, CEO of Blippar, adds: “Never before has a store gift guide been so fun and interactive. With this campaign, Christmas shopping will finally become an exciting and enjoyable experience. Through the app customers can play fun games, virtually try-on products and share these on social media, and kids can discover 3D toys and play with them before adding them on their wish list.”

Also working with Blippar this Christmas are high street chains Accessorize and Miss Selfridge, with both retailers using the AR platform to enhance their in-store magazines. Like the Argos Christmas gift guide, Accessorize’s Christmas shopping issue offers shoppers the chance to see products come to life and blipp to buy direct from the guide. Behind-thescenes footage of product shoots features as well.

Likewise Miss Selfridge fans will be able to use the technology on the first issue of Inspired magazine, with pages full of party dresses, winter knits and gift ideas. The blippable pages will enable shoppers to buy using their mobile device or create a wish list of their most wanted products.

Shop Direct brand Very.co.uk is also gearing up for increased mobile traffic this Christmas, with head of brand and advertising at the digital department store, Paul Ray, explaining to The Drum that in just three years mobile traffic to Very. co.uk has grown from less than five per cent to almost 50 per cent of its total traffic, with tablet traffic up over 116 per cent year-on-year.

Ray comments: “The typical customer journey to purchase is no longer on a single device – it’s across multiple devices throughout the day. We’re therefore able to interact with our customers at all times of day and no matter what they’re doing. With that in mind, we’ve made significant investment over the last couple of years to optimise our sites for smartphones and tablets; whether iOS or Android devices, we’re agnostic but aim to give each visitor a great shopping experience whatever their chosen device.”

Speaking specifically of Christmas, Ray explains the brand will be “extending and fully integrating” mobile into its marketing strategy and campaigns, with display advertising from Somo, display retargeting activity via myThings and video campaigns in conjunction with OMD UK, as well as search activity on Google Mobile.

“Mobile campaigns have advanced rapidly and dramatically in the last few years,” he says. “We now have the ability to join up journeys and messaging across multiple devices. In the run-up to Christmas, advertising across mobile but especially tablet will be key in amplifying our latest TV campaign and will account for a significant share of our marketing spend.”

With current figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) showing smartphone and tablet ownership sitting at 69 per cent and 28 per cent respectively, and 2014 ownership figures expected to reach 75 per cent for smartphones and 50 per cent for tablet, engaging with those who are continuously connected should be at the forefront of all marketers’ minds this Christmas. As the worlds of mobile and retail become increasingly intertwined, engaging with consumers via mobile during the festive period is more essential than ever for brands, not only for Christmas success, but for sales, brand awareness, and customer loyalty into next year and beyond.

This article was published as part of The Drum's 8 November mobile supplement and can be purchased from The Drum Store.

Featured by The Drum