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Tips for fine-tuning your mobile platform over the holidays

Tips for fine-tuning your mobile platform over the holidays Tom Caporaso

The holiday season is now underway, and so, presumably, are your sales and marketing strategies for the year-end shopping bonanza. For many stores, the difference between a successful and a not-so-successful year depends on their November and December results, so it's critical that you give your customers exactly what they want -- and what they increasingly want is to be able to shop from their smartphones, whenever and wherever they choose.

According to Adobe Digital Insights, sales via mobile channels eclipsed the $1 billion mark for the first time ever on Black Friday 2016. In fact, mobile devices are projected to account for over half of all visits to retail sites this holiday season. On the flip side, though, only 34 percent of sales are expected to be made via smartphones and tablets, mostly because too many retailers have paid too little attention to m-commerce. Stores that already offer smooth, convenient mobile experiences -- i.e., quick-loading sites, easy access to products and information, streamlined checkout flows, and more -- will therefore stand the best chance of attracting and retaining mobile shoppers.

By now, of course, code freezes should have been applied to your mobile channels to ensure that they function as desired during the holidays. Nevertheless, there are still a few things you can do around the edges (and/or when absolutely necessary) to fine-tune your mobile platform this season.

Keep testing and optimizing your mobile campaigns
The increased traffic makes November and December the ideal time for measuring the effectiveness of various messages and offers. Skip tests on high-traffic dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but maintain a full schedule the rest of the season. Test only your most promising tactics, though, and don't be afraid to shut down efforts that aren't delivering big wins; the holiday season is too important to settle for small gains (or worse) when bigger ones are possible. As always, break down all results by platform so you can identify exactly what worked where.

Keep regression testing
Just because your mobile site or app passed all of the pre-holiday tests doesn't mean it's guaranteed to work all season long under real-life, high-volume conditions. Continuously confirm that your software is performing as well as it did before the shopping activity accelerated. Your mobile platform can't be expected to exceed its proven capabilities, but in case it falls far short of those standards…

Keep your IT experts on hand 24/7
Code freezes are typically set in stone, and rightly so, but you need to act when issues arise, particularly if you stand to lose considerably more than a remedy might cost. Bugs that prevent customers from placing orders, for example, should be addressed immediately rather than in 2017. Similarly, if traffic surges drastically increase loading times, you'll want to test and vet speed optimization fixes thoroughly, then implement them ASAP. Just a one-second delay in site loading can reduce conversions by seven percent, and nearly 40 percent of mobile users will leave a page that doesn't load within three seconds.

Monitor everything
Don't wait for customers to inform you of a problem; conduct ongoing user tests so you can detect glitches as soon as they appear. If you fix an issue quickly, your best customers will likely forgive you, but first-time customers are often much less understanding, and very few shoppers are willing to overlook problems that persist for days (or even hours, in many cases).

Increase your cyber security, including fraud monitoring
As e-commerce and m-commerce have grown, so have security breaches, and the holidays are an especially ripe time for ambitious thieves. Failing to protect your customers' data during the busiest shopping period of the year can be quite costly, as Target learned. Be sure you have the proper security software in place to ward off hackers; you should also have a failover plan that automatically switches your data to a stand-by system to guard against any loss of revenue.

Protect your app's brand
The recent proliferation of fake retail apps put consumers at increased risk for credit card fraud, identity theft, and hijacked or ransomed smartphones. Keep an eye out for fraudulent apps in your store's name, and alert your audience if you find one. Although you're not liable for the losses suffered by victims of fake apps, your relationships with these customers -- and others -- could very well take a hit anyway.

Keep promoting your mobile site and app
As noted earlier, consumers are shopping on mobile devices in record numbers this holiday season. If you're well-equipped to take advantage of this growing trend, you need to make sure your customers know that. Get the word out via email, order confirmation pages, banner ads, text alerts, and whatever other promotional channels are available to you.

With the holiday season upon us, you need to focus on maximizing the strategies you've put in place. As Black Friday 2016 sales results have shown, those plans should include catering to mobile shoppers as much as possible. While it's too late to make wholesale changes to your m-commerce platform, you can still take steps to ensure that your mobile customers' wants and needs are properly addressed. You can also gather and analyze data about their behavior to ensure that your mobile efforts in the coming year continue to serve their interests -- and yours.

Tom Caporaso is the CEO of Clarus Commerce, a recognized leader in e-commerce and subscription commerce solutions. Among its various properties, Clarus Commerce owns and operates FreeShipping.com, the pioneer of the pre-paid shipping and cashback...

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