'Twas the merry season of mobile

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Carol Krol, editor in chief, Direct Marketing News
Carol Krol, editor in chief, Direct Marketing News

As we turn the page on the calendar, put away the garland and box up the pre-lit tree, the dust has just begun to settle on 2011 holiday commerce numbers. Early returns, particularly from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, signaled a major win for mobile commerce.

It's safe to say the “Year of Mobile” finally came to pass in 2011. Just look at  skyrocketing tablet and smartphone adoption rates for proof. EBay is among the marketers that registered astounding mobile payment volumes on the two blockbuster holiday shopping days. The dollars at stake are considerable.

Mobile commerce and mobile marketing will continue along this trajectory in the next year as device adoption continues, and there will be no shortage of innovation in marketing to consumers through portable devices.

One example: consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble last month launched a digital mobile coupon service that uses light-based communication technology to enable barcodes displayed on mobile phone screens to be scanned at point of sale. I've no doubt we'll see a rush of developments like this from other marketers in the next few months.

Like every other marketing medium, mobile commerce and mobile marketing do not occur in a vacuum. Direct response marketing-driven tactics such as free shipping offers drove many of this season's mobile holiday shopping success stories. Shop.org said more than 92% of online retailers dangled the free shipping carrot in front of customers this year.

Mobile devices are a particularly powerful tool to deliver these kinds of targeted, direct offers to consumers, and with the addition of geolocation data available, it is even more exciting to contemplate the possibilities.

With opportunity comes the responsibility for brands to continuously innovate to meet an increased number of empowered smartphone users. According to an October National Retail Federation survey, 52.6% of consumers who own a smartphone said they would use their device to assist with holiday shopping. Nearly one-third said they would research products and/or compare prices on their smartphone and 14.1% said they would use their phones to purchase products. Marketers that enable consumers to take full advantage of mobile technology will be holly and jolly for years to come.

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