Expert POV: Deconstructing Retail Holiday Success, by Rob Garf

It’s no secret that mobile has become the thread that weaves the shopper journey together across digital and physical destinations. This is particularly pronounced during the holidays.

Based on 2016  mobile holiday traffic to retail sites, which exceeded desktop for the first time ever, according to our Shopping Index, I anticipate mobile traffic will top 60% this holiday. Orders placed on phones are likely to approach 40% on some typically high-mobile days, like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (December 26). Like last year, mobile conversions will likely increase this holiday as time-starved consumers use their phones to get product and retail store information, find last minute gifts, and more.

With that in mind, let’s dive into holiday 2016, and look ahead to how retailers can have a successful 2017 holiday season.  

What Happened During Holiday 2016

During October, November, and December 2016, Mobify’s customers saw mobile traffic grow by 15.8% and desktop traffic decrease by 13.4%. Salesforce Commerce Cloud saw that over the month of November, mobile orders accounted for 30% of all transactions.

Globally, digital revenue grew by 34%. Even mature markets like the UK and US still saw double-digit growth while Canada, a much smaller ecommerce market, led the growth at 25% YoY.

Revenue growth by region chart

Retailers and brands have invested heavily to break down the historical friction between browsing and buying on mobile. And to a certain extent, it’s working.

Mobile order share chart

Order share on mobile increased to 34% from 20% two years ago but has not kept pace with the rate of traffic growth, which stands at 57%. Clearly, more can be done to close the conversion gap.

Last-Minute Shopping Habits Die Hard

New research from Google shows that shoppers searched more for stores nearby right up until Christmas. Google where to buy chart

People were also looking up store hours – for forgotten ingredients as well as last minute gifts – on Christmas Day itself. Suffice to say, this is a prime example of the need for an excellent mobile experience to impact in-store sales. The point is, don’t take your foot off the gas and pull back your marketing efforts just because the pre-Christmas shipping deadline has passed. Mobile presents a clear and significant opportunity to drive last-minute shoppers into stores.

Top searches included: “what stores are open near me on Christmas,” “what stores are open right now,” and “what grocery stores are open on Christmas.” Holiday shoppers want more help in a hurry—here’s how to succeed this season, Think With Google, Oct. 2017

Efficiency is Crucial for Holiday Shoppers at Every Stage of the Funnel

With all the running around that holiday shopping entails, retailers need to satisfy shoppers during each stage of the shopping journey.
Retailers have a 59% probability of converting smartphone shoppers to purchasers this holiday season. Click To Tweet
A new survey from Deloitte shows that shoppers will use mobile devices at several points throughout their holiday shopping journeys. The good news? Retailers have a 59% probability of converting smartphone shoppers to purchasers if they can catch them at multiple points during the shopping journey.

Deloitte smartphone usage chart

Address the need for speed

A 2016 study found heart rate increases of 38% during mobile content delays, which is comparable to the effect of watching a horror movie!

Cognitive load chart

A growing number of retailers are seeing success with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), a technique that loads landing pages almost instantly. AMP pages are lightweight versions of landing pages (product listing pages are ideal AMP pages for holiday shoppers), which are delivered almost instantly when a shopper clicks through from search results. The average load for an AMP page is 1.8 seconds – much lower than the industry average. A well-performing website also gets a healthy SEO boost from Google, which helps capture holiday browsers.

Engage customers with app-like UX

Many retailers fail to implement the most current user experience (UX) best practices on mobile. Your customers are accustomed to using apps and playing games that are fun and entertaining, so if your UX fails to address the “playfulness factor,” engagement efforts are likely to flop.

On top of that, customers expect to simply do more on mobile, so be pragmatic in your approach by making your mobile experience useful. Add a quick link to order tracking or in-store availability during the holiday period. Send push notifications for discounts, coupons, and sale information to cut through the marketing noise. Commerce Cloud forecasts that up to 10% of all iPhone orders this holiday will be made with Apple Pay, as more retailers implement one-click shopping to smooth the payment process. Consider adding alternative payment options (PayPal, Android Pay) according to your customer base.

Make checkouts seamless

Getting customers to your site is great, but you need to streamline the checkout process to seal the deal. In some cases, the gap between mobile and desktop checkout rate is narrowing, but according to a study by the Baymard Institute, that’s only on websites designed to help the shopper check out quickly and effortlessly. It’s time to get your UX team together, do your research, and implement some quick wins – see the emphasis below on free shipping – to your checkout in time for the busiest shopping days of the year.

Free shipping example

61% of customers abandon checkout when they discover extra costs, and 24% abandon because they can’t see or calculate shipping costs up-front.

  • If free shipping is an option, make sure it’s emphasized early in the shopping flow
  • List the requirements shoppers must meet in order to get free shipping

Mobile is Key to Holiday Success

We can see by deconstructing the data that mobile is key to holiday success. Whether your customer is browsing, researching, or purchasing, they are trying to do it on mobile. To thrive, it’s essential that your mobile offering aligns with (or exceeds) your customer’s’ expectations.


As VP of Industry Strategy and Insights for Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Rob Garf is no stranger to the industry and the challenges retailers face. As the former retail strategy leader for IBM Global Business Services and vice president of Retail Strategies Service at AMR Research, Rob’s been on all sides of the business. He currently guides Commerce Cloud’s retail and product strategy.

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