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A retail marketer recently told me, “Our customers only use mobile to do research, not to purchase, so we don’t want to spend a lot of money trying to drive conversions there.” That’s a dangerous assumption. Poor conversion may just mean that you’re not giving your customers a good reason to purchase on their phones or that your mobile checkout experience needs work.

Over the past two years, Ebates has seen a 200% increase in conversion on smartphones. That increase goes across all verticals, from deal sites to luxury sites, but there are wide swings among merchants who are otherwise very similar. In other words, we know the issue with mobile conversion is not the customer or the product. Usually the issue is a failure to leverage mobile effectively.

In fact, what we’ve seen is that there are certain times when mobile is the right medium to reach customers. For example, the mobile push notification can be an even more effective tool than email, because of its immediacy.

Our epiphany came early this year when we began looking at time-specific dips in sales on Ebates. We noticed that a certain Sunday in February had a pronounced drop-off in the afternoon, because even our traditional weekend shoppers were all gathered in living rooms and bars watching the Super Bowl. Knowing that many of our members were probably there more for the party than the game itself, we decided to create a flash sale by offering increased cash back at a dozen or so stores, lasting only a few hours, and available only through our mobile app. We did not tease the sale in advance, and promoted it primarily through a mobile push notification that was sent shortly after kickoff. How did it go? Well, in 2014, here’s an hour-by-hour graph of all sales (not just mobile) on on Super Bowl Sunday.


Now compare that to the 2015 Super Bowl results.


The drop in sales right before the Super Bowl started was similar in both years, but in 2015, our post-kickoff sales returned to pre-kickoff levels. Between 4 pm and 8 pm (PT), sales increased 130% year-over-year. Clearly, we were able to generate incremental purchasing actions by being able to reach our members at a time when we guessed they’d be interested in shopping, just by giving them a good reason!

Our learnings from this super Sunday prompted us to roll out the mobile flash sale as a placement opportunity for our partners, allowing them to promote their own sales or creating demand through a short-term increase in cash back. Remember, you can’t win if you don’t play.

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