It might sound a little odd, but the time when British consumers are enjoying the final remnants of summer is the opportune moment for retailers to begin turning their attention to Christmas. With many businesses making up to 50 per cent of their annual profits in the month of December, it is never too early to begin planning for the busy season.

When it comes to retail trends, there is one that stands out above all others and that is the explosion of mobile devices. An IBM report found that back in March 2013, 23.5 per cent of UK online sales were made via tablets or smartphones. This figure was 13.1 per cent in 2012 and only six per cent a year earlier.

This dramatic shift towards mobile shows no sign of slowing down and it is the retailers that adjust their marketing strategies accordingly that will be most successful this Christmas.

Mobile strategy is key

From a marketing perspective, retailers will need to begin planning a mobile strategy to run alongside their existing campaigns. Many are even devising ‘mobile first’ strategies, putting this technology at the heart of their campaigns.

Regardless of where mobile comes in a marketing strategy, the key is to ensure that it is given independent consideration. Mobile is all about ‘ease of access’, so a potential buyer needs to find each stage of the buying cycle intuitive and straightforward. Websites should have a well-optimised mobile version. Email campaigns should also be designed with both standard and mobile mail clients in mind.

Location-based text marketing

The most successful retailers in the mobile space are the ones finding new and innovative ways to exploit the technology on offer. Geo-specific marketing is a great example of this.

By utilising a device’s GPS capabilities, advertisers can send real-time advertising to customers based on their location – like sending a coupon when customers approach a store.

Mobile as a communications channel

Mobile is not just proving disruptive at the end-point of the sales process, but throughout the buying cycle. Studies suggest that up to 97 per cent of mobile subscribers will read an SMS within 15 minutes of receiving it. With text messages boasting amongst some of the highest open rates of any communication channel, SMS marketing is an incredibly effective tool when it comes to communicating with a customer base.

Social media marketing

With networks such as Twitter and Facebook accounting for 1.9 per cent of site sales in 2012, the social channel is not in the same league as that of mobile sales. That is not to say that a social marketing strategy is not essential. Social channels play a key role in the path to conversion and retailers should tie their social strategy into their mobile efforts.

Building customer loyalty with effective marketing

To millennials, it seems like mobile has been around forever; but the truth is that as a marketing and sales channel, it is still a relatively new technology. With user habits still being formed, now is a critical time for retailers to carve out a reputation in the mobile sphere.

Retailers should look at each aspect of their business in order to ensure that it is optimised for mobile users. By identifying and addressing mobile usability issues at each stage of the buying cycle; as well as finding new and innovative ways to engage with customers through their devices, retailers will have the best possible chance of competing in the digital sector.

However, in order to be successful come Christmas, the time for retailers to begin devising an effective mobile strategy is right now.

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