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Children’s Place exec: Mobile holiday sales will be incremental

October 25, 2012

The Children's Place mobile site

Please click here to access the archived webinar

A Children’s Place executive who spoke during a Mobile Commerce Daily webinar yesterday said the retailer expects mobile holiday sales this year to be incremental.

During the 5 Last-Minute Tips for Effective 2012 Holiday Mobile Commerce webinar, the executive revealed that The Children’s Place has seen 100 percent growth in traffic coming through its mobile site in the past year and more than a 100 percent increase in the number of page views. Additionally, the retailer is seeing the conversion rate on mobile growing, which is up more than 100 percent, with shoppers who click on the reviews button converting at a rate five time higher than the overall rate.

“We are looking at the majority of holiday sales as incremental,” said Mike Dupuis, vice president of eCommerce at The Children’s Place, Secaucus, NJ.

“With the frequency with which consumers are going to be communicated to this holiday season, it is going to be very important to provide consumers with a simple path to the best offer, “ he said.

“What will annoy consumers are retailers who are not sensitive to message frequency, device proliferation and the tendency for these to overlap and reach customers in multiple ways,” he said.

The right balance
The growth in mobile experienced by The Children’s Place in the past points to the significantly larger role that mobile is likely to play for many retailers during the upcoming holiday season.

In addition to the increase in traffic and page views, the retailer’s organic search traffic from mobile is up 257 percent and the number of emails opened on a mobile device has doubled.

“One of the things that we are seeing coming from our mobile site are product or category specific searches,” Mr. Dupuis said. “We work with Branding Brand to insure that those clicks are landing on the appropriate deep link page.”

The Children’s Place has an optimized site for smartphone devices and is currently working on mobile apps, an SMS program and push notifications program for its apps.

The Children’s Place also recently launched a new loyalty program, My Place Rewards, which was designed from the beginning with mobile playing a key role.

While retailers’  mobile strategies are much broader this year, there is the chance that some may overreach and end up annoying shoppers rather than enhancing their experience.

Between email, desktop sites, mobile sites and mobile apps, retailers run the risk of confusing and frustrating consumers with mixed messages.

This means giving shoppers a way to go and find an offer themselves when a retailer’s messaging does not provide what they are looking for, per Mr. Dupuis.

With all the focus on showrooming, retailers could also end up annoying shoppers if store associates are too aggressive about approaching them when they pull out a smartphone with an offer to match online pricing,  said John Sheldon, senior vice president of strategy & planning and True Action, King of Prussia, PA. Not everyone on their phone in a store will be showrooming.

“Where that becomes intrusive or guilt inducing, it will not enhance the customer’s experience,” Mr. Sheldon said.

The abundance of inaccurate product feeds is also likely to annoy mobile shoppers who go to a store after a check on their smartphones informs them a product is available only to find it is not.

About 40 percent of product feeds are inaccurate, per Chris Mason, co-founder and CEO of Branding Brand, Pittsburgh, PA, which sponsored the webinar.

“Retailers need to make these accurate so that consumers looking visit a store, quickly find what they want and get out don’t wind up having a bad experience,” Mr. Mason said.

Performance issues
With mobile traffic likely to increase overall and undergo significant spikes at specific times, retailers need to have a strategy in place to insure they are providing the optimal experience at all times. This means designating mobile systems as critical product systems, per The Children’s Place’s Mr. Dupuis.

The Children’s Place has a plan in place – in some cases on an hour-by-hour basis – providing a detailed account of what it expects the mobile site to experience and how it will deal with any issues.

“There are retailers out there who may not consider these mobile applications as critical business systems – those are the one that I am worried about,” Mr. Dupuis said. “The one that have heightened awareness are making the moves to get the right systems in place will be successful this holiday season.

“There is a very high correlation of mobile site usage in conjunction with our email deployment times,” he said. “There are going to be key days when we will have multiple sends.

“We have an hourly analysis on mobile site traffic and we feel very confident that we are prepared.”

True Action recommends retailers consider a responsive failure strategy that will enable them to downgrade a mobile user’s experience in stages as needed with the goal of not losing a purchase.

For example, as volumes scales up, it may be necessary to push a user over to a mobile site from a mobile app and from the mobile site to the desktop site.

“The ability to downgrade intelligently based on where the failures are while trying to prevent the failure of someone not being able to make a purchase will be key, “ True Action’s Mr. Sheldon said.

Consistency counts
One important area for retailers to focus on is insuring they are providing a consistent message across channels.

The Children’s Place knows that its customer is touching at least two channels during the buying process so it focuses on keeping the number of times when it has different messages by channel to minimum.

“Our goal is to communicate as clearly and consistently as possible to the customer,” The Children’s Place’s Mr. Dupuis said. “She has shown us that she will choose the simplest path to the best offer.”

When there are differences in offers by channel, it is important to communicate these as clearly as possible and help shoppers understand why there might be restrictions in certain channels, per True Action’s Mr. Sheldon.

The need for consistency also extends to how  a retailer may change up its desktop site for the holidays. This should be extended to mobile as well so shoppers do not think there is a lack of promotion in this channel compared to the desktop site.

However, it is important that retailers keep the form factor in mind and include buttons that are easy to see and engage with.

“You need to have a mobile-first philosophy for spicing up your site,” Branding Brand’s Mr. Mason said.

Follow through
Once the holidays are over, retailers need to make sure they do not drop the ball with new mobile consumers that came into the system over the holidays and continue the dialog throughout the year.

“Nothing changes expect with maybe a slight decrease in messaging frequency post holidays,” The Children Place’s Mr. Dupuis said. “With expectations on the rise, I would encourage other retailers not to dial back the level of coordination that may have been put in place for the holidays.”

However, it is also important to put in place the ability for shoppers to turn down the volume of messages they receive if they want to. By including a way for customers to choose how often they want to receive messages, retailers can significantly decrease the number of opt outs, per True Action’s Mr. Sheldon.

Branding Brand suggests retailers should also insure they are gathering as much data about mobile users during the holiday season – when traffic is significantly up – that can be analyzed afterwards and help them mold their philosophy for 2013.

Please click here to access the archived webinar

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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