The numbers indicate more than a passing fad. Mobile is becoming a major channel for holiday shoppers to not only purchase goods but also to compare prices while on the go.
A recent benchmark report from IBM found that fully 6.58 percent of all sales on Cyber Monday were completed on a mobile device, up from 2.25 percent in 2010. Furthermore, the report found that 9.84 percent of all Black Friday sales were completed on a mobile device, and 14.33 percent of all retailer website traffic on that day came from a mobile device.
While that’s all good and fine for the major retailers, are small and local businesses, not to mention non-profits, being left out of the bounty? Not so fast. In fact, mobile is helping the little guy and gal to get their fair share this season.
Keeping It Local
While the national retailers will undoubtedly see their share of sales over the holidays, mobile is also enabling small, local businesses in a variety of ways. Giftly is one such company that hopes to give folks a nudge towards spending more of their holiday budget at the local mom and pop joints.
Giftly focuses on gift card giving. The National Retail Foundation (NRF) estimates that U.S. consumers will purchase more than $100 billion worth of gift cards and that 50 percent of Americans will buy and receive a gift card this year. The problem, as Giftly sees it, is that the places where you can buy gift cards are limited.
The company has an interesting solution to the problem. Giftly allows users to make a gift card for any local business in Yelp’s database of over 2 million places. Once the gift card is delivered to a user’s smartphone, they can then redeem it by simply checking in – via Yelp! or Foursquare – at the business for which the gift card has been issued. At that time, Giftly automatically deposits the amount of the gift card on the recipient’s credit card or bank account, cutting out the hassle of having to show the merchant anything at all.
“We realized it would be nice to be able to send people gift cards to local places. That’s a strange thing that’s not available right now. Right now most gift cards work because people partner directly with merchants and then offer gift cards that work at that business,” says Tim Bentley, Giftly’s CEO.
One of the biggest use cases Giftly is seeing right now is in distance giving. For instance, you want to send your parents who live 1,000 miles away a gift card to their favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant. If it’s listed on Yelp, you can do just that.
Giftly offers both the mobile option, as well as a printed option for those who don’t have a smartphone or mobile device with which to redeem a gift card. When asked whether Giftly might be filed under early-adopter solutions, Bentley puts his faith behind the growing popularity of mobile.
“I think that we’re seeing that grandmas and grandpas are getting on iPhones, which is pretty amazing,” he said. “The fact that my mom has an iPhone is shocking, but I think we see the trajectory of smartphones, the penetration, the amount of shopping being done on mobile, and it just seems like this is clearly the future.”
Bentley says the possibilities of evolving the Giftly experience on the mobile are limitless. He envisions the gift-giving experience as a social interaction that could be enhanced with pictures and videos over mobile.
“If I give my best friend a gift for his birthday, that’s usually where the social interaction ends,” Bentley says. “We see that we can use the smartphone to really enhance the gifting experience. Now when we send the gift certificate, we can ask whether the person wants to send a thank you note, or a photo of themselves with the gift.”
Spreading the Word
It’s one thing to be a small business and be on Yelp; it’s quite another to actually engage with your customers via their mobile phones. For many small businesses, going mobile is either too complicated or too costly.
Yowza!!, a location-based mobile couponing app for the iPhone, which until now has mainly dealt with placements for large retailers and restaurants, hopes to make it easier for local and small businesses to get their voices heard via mobile.
“On the merchant side, we wanted to make it as simple as possible, whether you’re McDonald’s or that guy around the corner,” says CEO David Teichner.
The company did just that. Whether small or large, merchants can log in to the company’s website, write their own offers and post them, where they’ll be viewable via Yowza’s app. The merchant can change their offers as often as they like, and they also have a dashboard that shows a variety of metrics relating to their coupons.
Perhaps one of the best parts about using a mobile solution like Yowza’s is that it’s relatively inexpensive compared to the alternatives.
“Our standard rate is $89 a month,” Teichner says. “We try to price where it’s something any small business can grab ahold of and make it considerably less than their current coupon solutions. Right now, if you’re a small or medium business and you advertise through a traditional direct mail couponing or circulars, you’re paying typically on the low end $400 per month, if not more.”
‘Tis the Season for Mobile Giving
Whether you bought online, via your mobile, or actually slogged into a traditional brick and mortar, the holidays usually provide the impetus to give back. As customers leave the stores, they’ll likely pass the Salvation Army’s ubiquitous red bucket and bell ringers or some other altruistic fundraising pursuit. Unfortunately, we’re no longer a cash society at large. How many people actually have change or even paper money in their pockets when they leave the store? Not to worry, a mobile fix for the holiday giver is on its way.
Douglas Plank, CEO and founder of MobileCause, a company that puts together mobile giving strategies for non-profits, says that the mobile channel has evolved into an invaluable tool for fundraising. He says that while the successes with mobile giving after the Haiti disaster were a good start, organizations are waking up to the fact that mobile can also be put to use for everyday philanthropy.
“Haiti happened and that really became a tipping point for those of us who serve the non-profit sector through mobile solutions… I think people are starting to realize that the utilization of mobile device is important for increasing communication, engagement and adding stickiness to event invitations. And it’s starting to fit more into your traditional solution for fundraising,” Plank said.
Plank says that the effectiveness of SMS and short codes are a prime example of mobile’s effectiveness in reaching any organization’s constituency.
“It makes a lot of sense. Open rates on a typical SMS are at 95 percent, whereas open rates on email are 30, 35 percent, maybe 40 depending on the organization. From a fundraising standpoint, it’s become a very easy additional solution, we’re not saying mobile fundraising replaces all traditional fund raising… this is just one more effective tool.”
So what to do about the cashless throngs that pass by the Salvation Army’s red buckets every year? Plank says MobileCause, which counts the Salvation Army as one of its clients, is well aware of the various NFC solutions being cooked up by industry players like Google and the Isis joint venture.
It won’t be long, Plank says, and even if you don’t have cash on hand, you’ll have no excuse. All you have to do is touch your phone to the bucket to make your donation.
And if you did just complete the entirety of your holiday shopping on your Android phone while eating bonbons on the couch and watching “Christmas Vacation,” you can always text your donation to the appropriate short code.