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‘Tis the Season to Go Mobile? American Shoppers Set to Scroll Their Way Through Holiday

2020 has represented a great changing of the guard as far as how shoppers buy. But while much of the spotlight has been on the major shift to e-commerce as a whole, retailers can’t ignore growing consumer preferences to shop on mobile and engage with brands that stand for a set of values—or they risk falling behind for good.

App Annie, a mobile data and analytics company, predicts the biggest holiday shopping season on mobile yet, at least in terms of traffic—with nearly 1 billion hours to be spent on Android devices in the U.S. alone, up 50 percent year-over-year.

Mobile commerce already saw a boom in the second quarter as the Covid-19 pandemic kept more people at home and on their phones, the company said in its first-half analysis. Weekly mobile sessions in the quarter increased by 25 percent in the U.S. over the first quarter, and even jumped 10 percent over the 2019 fourth quarter the year before during holiday season.

App Annie predicts mobile growth will continue in the 2020 fourth quarter with a longer shopping season due to October’s Prime Day and an expected contraction in the U.S. economy, driving consumers to seek deals and promotions for longer on their mobile devices leading up to the holidays.

The global market is poised to reap mobile rewards. App Annie also predicts Alibaba’s Singles Day 2020 will bring in over $45 billion in 24 hours, marking the biggest shopping day ever, with the lion’s share fueled by mobile commerce. Despite economic headwinds, early Covid containment in China and a surge in retail spending point to mobile playing a sigificant role this Singles Day.

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“During the last six months, consumers turned to their trusted mobile devices for a convenient shopping experience,” Lexi Sydow, senior market insights manager at App Annie, said in a statement. “Mobile shopping growth in the second quarter of 2020 indicates mobile’s booming role in this year’s holiday shopping season. Retailers, fintech and payment providers should prioritize features that resonate with shopping-from-home and socially-distant needs to capture customer spend and loyalty in our mobile-first world.”

While mobile is expected to be a constant influence on the retail ecosystem going ahead, the perception of brand values and how they align with shoppers personal beliefs also will continue to play a role in 2020 and beyond: 65 percent of U.S. shoppers and 69 percent of their European peers who are “Progressive Pioneers” say they regularly purchase from companies that align with their personal values, according to a recent Forrester Research report. These Progressive Pioneers are defined as shoppers who pay more attention to the emotional qualities and experience when making a decision about where they shop.

Of the social responsibility initiatives that consumers respond to, the commitment to information, confidentiality and data privacy matter the most, with 40 percent of U.S. shoppers saying it is an important value for a corporation. Right behind that is giving back to the local community, at 39 percent. And while 35 percent say environmental protections/position on climate change matters, another 33 percent point to a commitment to corporate ethics. More than 60 percent of online shoppers across the U.S., Canada and Europe want the companies they buy from to be transparent about their business practices.

Going forward, the preference for corporate social responsibility is a good sign for brands, at least if they have any intent on becoming more values driven.

Forrester believes that brands will be the real winners in the next decade, especially since they can own more of their destiny if they sell directly to consumers and prohibit marketplaces and other distributors from discounting their goods—Nike already did that with Amazon years ago and already has committed to bringing in more of its merchandise in-house to bolster its direct-to-consumer offering and assure that it remains in control of its own products.

That doesn’t mean that marketplaces don’t still have a role to play in the future shopping environment, especially given that shoppers have a largely favorable opinion of them.

Consumers are purchasing through marketplaces that give them access to products they may not have found elsewhere at lower prices than they believe they would get through traditional purchase avenues. Sixty-five percent of U.S. shoppers who buy products from online marketplaces believe that online marketplaces have allowed them to locate items that they may not have otherwise found, while 57 percent report that online marketplaces offer convenience. Another 43 percent report that prices are lower on online marketplaces, according to Forrester.

Forrester also highlighted how more companies are allowing people to experience their products and services with little or no upfront payment and without lock-in. These models make it easier for consumers to switch providers, so they are more willing to take a chance on brands and products that are willing to have more flexible business models.

The Forrester report specifically pointed out Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix as brands that use innovative pricing and distribution models aided by the fluidity of e-commerce, specifically since they enable recurring payments, enable access instead of ownership and they reduce the purchase risk by simplifying returns.

“Companies will need to discard orthodoxies around pricing, distribution, promotions and products,” Sucharita Kodali, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, said in a statement. “Companies that survive by 2030 will have new products and solutions that constantly adjust to fickle and changing consumers. These transitions are painful because firms have a lot invested in their current go-to-market approaches. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that sometimes even large capital expenses carefully invested in over the years need to be reevaluated.”