Thanksgiving Day, which this year seemingly usurped Black Friday as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season in the United States, provided oceans of Website and store data to collect and analyze.  And just like years past, the retailers, IT vendors and consultancies pouring over this data were paying close attention to traffic coming from smartphones and tablets. Nearly half (47%) of the store Web traffic on Thanksgiving Day came from shoppers using smartphones and tablets, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, a measurement of some 800 retail sites nationwide.

What’s more, mobile sales accounted for 26% of all online sales, up 49% from last year, IBM found. Mobile spending for the overall holiday period will hit $7 billion according to the latest projections from Internet analytics company comScore. While the rising importance of mobile devices in retailing isn’t a new, what is surprising are the number of marketers who continue to miss the essentials.

You still find mobile sites that are a “carbon copy” of the desktop Web site, said Paul Dunay, Global Vice President of Marketing for Maxymiser, a Web optimization and analytics company. A leading voice in digital marketing, Dunay also is the author of five “Dummies” books, including Facebook Marketing for Dummies 3rd Edition (Wiley 2012). “Nobody visiting a banking site from an iPhone is filling out a mortgage application,” Dunay said, emphasizing what should be design differences between mobile and desktop pages. Another mistake is the rush to deploy a smartphone app. Businesses must conduct the requisite research into user preferences, needs and habits before building an app, Dunay said.

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In fact, shoppers who ventured out to stores on Thanksgiving Day were largely unarmed when it came to mobile apps, according to research by global advertising company Omnicom’s measurement company, TPN, which found most shoppers didn’t have an app on their phones, and only 3% had a coupon app. Less than a quarter (23%) of respondents said they used a mobile app before going out shopping. Even something as seemingly mundane as page-loading times came out as an important expectation in Maxymiser’s own study of 1000 mobile shoppers. Some 65% said they valued an easy-to-use experience and fast loading pages and images on a retailer’s mobile site. One particularly chilling finding in Maxymiser’s research underscores the importance of companies getting their mobile strategies right:

  • Some 39% said they would leave and visit a competitor’s mobile site, and never return, as a result of a poor user experience. And 23% would return less often following a poor experience.

On the other hand, Dunay isn’t surprised retail marketers haven’t fully leveraged this relatively new channel, given the volume and variety of the data, including largely untapped data sets around location and movement. The good news is that the mobile channel still has plenty of upside for retailers. IBM’s analysis found Thanksgiving Day mobile sales amounted to 26% of all online sales, up 49% from a year ago.

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Ellis Booker is a familiar name in the computer trade press, where he held senior editorial posts at a number of A-list IT publications, including CMP’s [now UBM's] InternetWeek, Mecklermedia’s Web Week and IDG’s Computerworld. At Computerworld, he led the paper’s Internet and electronic commerce coverage in the early days of the Web and was responsible for creating its weekly Internet Page.

Most recently, Booker was editor-in-chief of Crain Communication Inc.’s BtoB, the only magazine devoted to covering the intersection of business strategy and business marketing. He ran BtoB, as well as its sister title Media Business, for a decade.