By Joseph de Avila
Retailers eager to attract holiday shoppers are expanding their digital efforts to reach them this season.
Stores like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are using more text-message alerts to spread the news about sales. Online retailers like Buy.com Inc. are sending out daily messages on Twitter, a blogging site that uses short messages, to advertise the latest holiday specials. The Gap Inc., Target Corp., Sears Holdings Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. are pushing new mobile programs this year, too.
Retailers hope these efforts make it easier for customers to shop online, with their cellphones or even at brick-and-mortar stores. And while the prices touted digitally are basically the same as those offered in the store, retailers say customers can get news of sales earlier than with other methods, such as commercials or circulars.
This digital outreach comes as retailers worry about weak sales during what typically is their busiest time of year. Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 5, shoppers spent $14.92 billion online, essentially the same as last year, according to a report released Sunday by research firm comScore Inc. Still, on Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, holiday shoppers spent $846 million, a 15% increase from last year, comScore's report said.
Connecting with busy shoppers through their mobile phones "is even more important right now" for retailers, given the tough economic climate, says Brad Beasley, president of CrossLink Media, a mobile-marketing firm.
How some retailers are reaching customers through their digital devices this holiday season:
- Target, the Gap and Amazon.com recently launched free iPhone applications.
- The Amazon.com application makes it easier to comparison shop for similar items.
- Buy.com is sending out sale alerts on Twitter, a micro-blogging site. Sears customers can shop from their phones at sears2go.com.
- Wal-Mart and Target are sending out weekly cellphone text messages, alerting registered users to sales and discounts. Most cellphones support the promotional text messages.