It seems that barely a week goes by without fresh evidence of the unstoppable rise of the smartphone.

Just last month, two new reports highlighted just how much of a focal point our phones have become in all our lives. 

Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey found that UK citizens look at their smartphones over a billion times a day, declaring that “no other personal device has had the same commercial and societal impact as the smartphone, and no other device seems likely to.”

Around the same time in late September the IAB released its ‘Mobile Commerce: A Global Perspective’ survey, which found that three-quarters (75%) of smartphone and tablet users say they have purchased a product or service on their smartphone or tablet in the past six months, and nearly a quarter (23%) buy on mobile devices on a weekly basis.

As the retail industry rapidly adapts to mobile usage, at Criteo we’re able to analyse millions of online sales in real time, on all devices and from thousands of brands across all industries.

With this front-row seat to the very latest in mobile commerce, we’re especially interested in looking at the way different retail industries are keeping pace with the rate of change.

Because of the specific challenges facing them, we’ve seen that the fashion industry in particular is blazing a trail in smartphone targeting, including cross-channel strategies, and travel is making its mark by providing superior customer experience/ better conversions via apps.

What’s driving these industries to lead in these areas – and what can others learn from them?

The rise of the ‘Smartphonista’

Last month’s New York-London-Milan-Paris Fashion Weeks saw the old guard of print fashion journalism clash with the fashion world’s new digital influencers, who rely on blogging platforms and Instagram to communicate with their thousands of followers.

Their argument is symptomatic of a wider trend: that smartphones are revolutionising the way the fashion industry markets and sells its wares, and this is causing headaches for traditional media – but driving strong results on digital channels.

According to Criteo data, clothes have quickly become the premier mobile purchase in the UK, with 55% of online fashion purchases now being made through mobile (smartphones or tablets), and four out of 10 of all fashion purchases in the UK being made through smartphones.

This makes fashion shoppers that purchase on smartphones (who we’ve coined ‘Smartphonistas’) a particularly valuable audience for fashion retailers.

Mobile is perfect for this kind of off-the-cuff purchase, allowing consumers to browse flash sales on their phone, shop while watching TV, or buy an article of clothing on a whim.

In addition to impulse, these purchases can also be driven by social connections and social influence (as evidenced by the rise of the fashion bloggers so vilified by Vogue).

Social media – particularly Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest – appears to strongly influence clothing purchases on mobile.

Heavy Snapchat users are 139% more likely to buy clothes on mobile than the average Brit, while heavy Instagram (113%) and Pinterest (83%) users are also much more likely than average to buy clothing on mobile, according to Criteo’s Portrait of Performance report.

Despite all this, acquiring new fashion customers is notoriously hard.

What’s more, it can take several purchases before a customer earns you a profit, and turning new customers into loyal buyers takes finesse.

In response to these challenges, fashion retailers are starting to recognise what products drive the best response on what device.

For example, fashion shoppers favour small screens for low-risk items (T-shirts etc.) and products they don't need to try on (e.g. accessories).

In addition, the new breed of Smartphonistas often use multiple devices on the path to purchase, so retailers are starting to track more effectively across devices in order to send the right message to the right person, at the right time.

Nadya Birca, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at New Look told us that the key to successfully engaging with the Smarphonista is to recognise that he or she expects a truly cross-channel experience:

“With mobile usage soaring in the UK, the experience we’re aiming to deliver on mobile is significant for our interactions with customers both on- and off-line.

"When browsing on mobile we shouldn’t expect users to purchase straight away - allowing them a seamless navigational exploration, and later consideration experience, is what should drive any mobile commerce business focus.”

Destination App

As the 36th annual World Tourism Day reminded us at the end of last month, the tourism industry continues to drive positive social, cultural, political and economic impacts worldwide.

In many countries, including the UK, the travel industry is feeling the positive impact of the rise of smartphone use.

Criteo’s latest Travel Flash Report shows that one in five Brits now browse for travel options on their mobile phones, and close to one-third of online travel bookings worldwide took place on mobile devices in Q2 2016 (up 24% from the year before).

During the same period, smartphones captured nearly one in five online travel bookings.

But that’s not all – the travel industry, more than most other verticals, is seeing particular success when it comes to mobile apps.

According to our data, with investment in in-app tracking and advertising, committed travel advertisers are seeing a surge of bookings made from apps.

Apps generated 57% of mobile bookings in Q1 2016, up from 40% in Q3 2015.

Over the past two years, travel brands that invested in their apps saw constant growth in app bookings from 12% to now over half of all mobile bookings.

For one-night stays, apps have a clear lead over other devices or platforms, with nearly three in four app bookings made for one-night stays.

The most effective travel mobile strategies encourage app installs with services that really make a difference:

  • Personalising recommendations based on searches, selection criteria, past travels and wish lists
  • Sending up-to-date, useful and non-intrusive notifications (e.g., check-in reminders, traffic, delays, alternatives, cancellation, nearby offers)
  • Offering better deals on your app to temporarily capture downloads and bookings, but be consistent to sustain them
  • Enabling one-click bookings with intelligent auto-fill of personal details (while highlighting payment security)

App bookings are on a roll, and we can see that merchants who invested in and promoted apps early are now reaping the benefits. 

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Published 21 October, 2016 by Gregory Gazagne

Gregory is an EVP at Criteo and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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