From all accounts during the weekend, Black Friday and the weekend sales did pretty well – even with the pepper spray. One report stated a 24% uptick on Black Friday compared to 2010. Where there are still opportunities for growth and development are in mobile. It was a bit frustrating to see that a number of retailers I checked Friday through Sunday were not optimized for viewing over mobile phones. In the case of Office Depot, it was even more confounding that they would force users to a mobi site that only said they could not shop from mobile, only desktops. It was bizarre and an opportunity lost that they didn’t provide a click to the web version for people with smartphones. It makes you wonder how many other mobile transaction opportunities were lost.
Numbers of smartphone browsing and purchases were most-certainly higher than they were last year and will continue to grow. With that huge potential, retailers have some time to build and refine their mobile offering, but they can’t be too slow. Steve Smith reported in an Online Media Daily post that mobile was responsible for 14.3% of all online shopping traffic on Black Friday and 9.8% of all retail transactions based on a report from IBM Smarter Commerce. Perhaps the 41% bounce rate they reported was due to a larger number of retailers not allowing for a full shopping experience via mobile.
IBM pointed to eBay’s products (the actual eBay App and RedLaser, their owned price comparison app) as examples of the overall success. I think using eBay’s properties might be too narrow a spectrum to claim mobile shopping was a success for the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend. Yes, it was better than the year before, but could it have been bigger? Must users already have apps installed to be able to really take advantage of the retail experience? Probably not.
The simple step would be to ensure that available technologies are sniffed prior to loading a mobi or WAP page, so that those who can handle the full site don’t have to be downgraded – and potentially lost. For those retailers that are reliant on Flash, change quickly. There’s no reason why HTML5 versions cannot be instituted. Some would say that HTML5 is not used due to browser and platform compatibility, but that doesn’t ring true anymore as vendors are already proving that myth wrong – at least back to IE6 (which is questionable whether you want those consumers anyway.)
There are some good mobile retail sites – most notably, the Gap who was the only retailer to earn a nomination for Best Mobile Website at the 2011 Meffy Awards – but there are still a lot left to be desired. With the migration of consumers from desktop to mobile platforms, sales numbers will start to be affected if more retailers don’t step up to make the shopping experience simple on mobile.