Mobile more prominent during 2011 holiday season

With the 2011 holiday season dead and buried, now is a great time to look back at how consumers utilized technology to make purchases, as this can help companies and marketers prepare for next year's rush.

Google partnered with Ipsos to explore consumer shopping data via PC, tablet and smartphone devices between October and December 2011. Researchers found that smartphone users tended to use their devices to research items, and that other tasks were prominently preferred on other devices.

For instance, 76 percent of respondents researched gift options online prior to making holiday purchases. Of that subset, 46 percent said they did so via smartphone, while 41 percent said they used their smart device to actually purchase an item. Thirty-seven percent combined the two, using mobile to both research and make a purchase.

This points directly to the impact mobile had during the 2011 holiday season, and how mobile marketers should strongly consider campaigns and deals that are optimized for the smaller screen in 2012.

Other forms of research were far less popular. Store circulars or flyers penetrated just 36 percent of respondents, 34 percent read in-store displays or received recommendations from friends while just 29 percent watched television ads.

Tablets and PCs were used more prevalently for specific activities as well. For example, 77 percent of tablet users read product reviews, compared to 70 percent of smartphone users and 67 percent of PC users. Yet when it came to checking prices, 79 percent of those polled went to their PCs, compared to just 63 percent who used tablets and 61 percent who accessed the information via their smartphones.

Coupon-hunting was also found to be easier on the PC, with 73 percent of respondents reporting that they used their computers for the task. A mere 49 percent used tablets and 46 percent went with their smartphones, pointing to marketers' inability to create discount imperatives over smaller screens.

A recent study from IBM reiterated Google and Ipsos' findings. Specifically, 14.6 percent of online sessions on retailers' website were initiated from mobile devices during Q4 2011 - more than double Q4 2010's rate of 5.6 percent. Furthermore, sales from mobile devices grew from 5.5 percent to 11 percent during those same time periods.

When it came to sales via certain mobile brands, iPhone out-dueled Android 5.2 percent to 4.1 percent in terms of retail traffic. 

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