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Harnessing mobile trends, technology and tips from industry giants

By Kalie Kimball-Malone

Retail sales across the marketplace have been slumping, but mobile sales are on the rise. More searches are being made from mobile devices, more purchases are being made on the go, and more people are comfortable with sharing their location to get good deals.

So what does that mean for marketers? What are the mobile technologies and services to keep an eye on? And what is the best way for your brand to buck the national dip in sales, and ride the rising tide of mobile commerce?

Get inspiration for your 2012 mobile marketing by looking at some of the hot new trends, cool technologies and companies on the cutting edge.

Moving target
Whether or not you are prepared, your customers are on the go, and they are ready to spend. The indicators are staggering: this Thanksgiving, PayPal saw a 500 percent increase in mobile payment over the previous year, while Google saw a 220 percent spike in mobile shopping searches in 2011.

Smart marketers are going to take advantage of these numbers, and fast. They know that customers need to find their brands and products with mobile devices, and they know that those customers will expect both a streamlined mobile experience and incentives to visit nearby retail outlets.

That is why search, location marketing, and mobile commerce will be increasingly relevant to retail businesses in 2012.

Search is on
According to eMarketer, 68 percent of people have visited a business and 53 percent of people have made a purchase as the result of a mobile search.

That is why retailers have to make sure they not only have a smart, intuitive mobile site, but that this site is optimized for mobile search ? which has different algorithms and shorter keywords.

And because mobile searches are mostly local, true optimization will take advantage of regionally relevant information.

And lest you think all this attention exaggerates the significance of an optimized mobile site, here is something to keep in mind: while desktop search might mean your customer is in the research phase, mobile search is more likely to mean that your customer is looking for timely, relevant and local information. Why? Because they are closer to buying.

Location, location, location
But they are not just closer to the decision. They are closer to your stores.

According to JiWire, 66 percent of people prefer to shop in a store within a five-mile radius, and 50 percent of on-the-go customers are willing to share their location to get good deals.

So, in addition to showing up on searches, mobile-savvy marketers are looking into location and proximity offerings that increase repeat business and reward loyalty.

Foursquare is great example of an emerging technology that, because it has yet to catch on with the average user, can be a great way to reach trend-setters and other high-value customers.

What is a Foursquare or Facebook check-in worth, if it means the customer is in your store, willing to engage? A lot more than someone passing a billboard at 65 miles per hour. So, it will pay to show these customers special attention.

Gap and Visa are running with this philosophy, and their Mobile4U program is worth a look. It lets customers sign up to receive SMS messages about exclusive offers when they are near a Gap store.

According to location marketer Placecast, these texts prompt unplanned in-store visits for nearly 50 percent of shoppers.

Monsters of mobile commerce
So, mobile users are searching for you, and they are coming into your stores. But they are also buying straight from their devices.

An astonishing 82 percent of tablet users and 76 percent of smartphone users are willing to buy directly from their devices, and 67 percent of tablet users are willing to make a purchase of $50 or more.

In addition to the meteoric rise in mobile payment through the likes of PayPal, this is due to an increase in mobile commerce applications.

Amazon continually sets the bar for mobile shopping and has outdone itself with the Flow app, which uses augmented reality to let users compare prices and get reviews.

Not to be outdone, the Google Shopper app lets users compare products and find local retailers.

Retailer-specific apps are on the rise as well, because the benefit is clear: retailers are able to push out notifications on new items and sales that are relevant to each individual customer.

And yet, Google took a blow in the war for mobile payment dominance in early December, when Verizon announced that it will not be preloading Google Wallet in its flagship Galaxy Nexus device. Only in a highly competitive environment would any company risk snubbing Google.

Ride the rising tide
One colleague said to me recently, ?I don?t shop them if they don?t have a mobile app.? Sound extreme? Perhaps it does not reflect the view of your average consumer, but customers who adopt the technology early are often influencers, meaning that this opinion will only become more popular.

Knowing where your customers are and how they are looking for you or your products is critical as you develop your mobile strategies for 2012 and beyond. Start with optimizing your current Web site for mobile visitors ? it is the most crucial first step.

Understanding how to perform well in mobile search results is a close second.

Once the foundation is there, start to explore how to extend into other mobile technologies such as geo-fencing to engage your customers, drive purchase intent and increase loyalty. Do not be a casualty of the bearish retail economy. Go mobile, and ride the rising tide.

Kalie Kimball-Malone is creative director at The Garrigan Lyman Group, a full-service digital creative agency in Seattle. Reach her at .