The term ‘holiday season’ stirs the hearts of retailers all over the world. If you are one of the many retail store owners with a mobile app, you have a powerful tool at your disposal for capitalizing on the holiday fervor.

Here are 5 ways to get the most out of your app this holiday season:

1. Acquire more customers before the rush

The lead up to holiday shopping is a critical time to grow your customer base. Now is the time to leverage your app and acquire new users by distributing through a high quality mobile ad network.

But it takes time for people to warm up to a brand - particularly one that asks them to spend. Make sure to get your new users acquainted with your app’s personality and unique benefits via the onboarding process or through push notifications and their subsequent landing pages. When the high-octane shopping hours roll around, your new user will know exactly who to turn to.

Since wallets are open for the season, the cost of acquiring a user will be a bit inflated. But it’s worth expanding your budget to acquire high quality users at this crucial time during which the potential ROI is so significant.

So now your store is sitting in your customers’ pockets. How do you leverage this opportunity?

2. Make your app holiday-friendly

It might sound silly, but updating your app with a holiday makeover can have a surprisingly important impact on sales and conversions. Using the relevant holiday-oriented color schemes, a holiday-themed logo, or fitting out your entire app with holiday tropes like snowflakes, fireplaces, and gingerbread men will get users in the holiday spirit and in the mood to shop. Well-executed holiday imagery evokes feelings of generosity and warmth. Chartboost has a useful guide on which colors and images to use.

3. Geo-targeting

For business owners with a brick-and-mortar backbone, your app can be a great way to bring in real foot traffic during the holiday season. The key to this strategy is utilizing smart push notifications.

Just like ‘Sale’ signs in brick and mortar stores, notifications of limited offers or upcoming deals create a sense of urgency and immediacy. Choose smart times to alert your customers, like between 2-4 on Black Friday or the Saturday before Christmas.

The notification experience doesn’t have to end once a consumer has actually entered the store. A report by Fetch found that 82% of consumers use their phone while physically in the store to compare prices and look for sales, while Retail Touchpoints found that over 50% of customers would be interested in getting notifications while browsing in-store. Thanks to geo-targeting and QR codes, retailers can now see exactly when their customers are in the store, and create an interactive experience with exclusive offers via the app to drive increased sales.

4. Mobile for the assist

Despite the growing numbers of users doing their holiday shopping on their smartphones, most users still feel more comfortable making purchases on their desktop. Whether because desktops are more familiar or feel more secure, it’s important to create congruence between the two platforms on your site and your app so you don’t lose out on sales.

Even if users aren’t ready to buy via your app, it is still a vital part of your sales funnel. Many users treat apps like storefronts - they do their digital window shopping on the app before making their final purchases on the desktop website or in the store, so focus your holiday app experience around highly visual, aesthetically pleasing layouts to entice consumers as much as possible.

It’s also important to make sure that your payment systems are synced on mobile and desktop. You should have one sign-in for both, and shopping carts should update and sync across devices. Remember, users want to feel that the shopping experience is catered to their needs and highly personalized, so your website should remember past purchases, items in the cart, etc. Lead your user by the hand, and the thumb.

5. Selling ad space

Remember that high holiday cost of acquiring a new mobile user? You can take advantage of this valuable traffic on your own app by integrating an SDK as a publisher and selling space to advertisers. This is a particularly good idea if your app is primarily a storefront.

If you’re worried that this tactic will cannibalize sales, consider that some of the world’s biggest retailers are embracing this strategy on their websites.

eCommerce platforms are under intense pressure to give big holiday sales and offer free shipping. In a time of disappearing margins, the revenues generated from this channel can give retailers a significant boost. The more 1st party data you can provide as a publisher, the more valuable your ad space will be.

Looking to 2016

Whether its purpose is to drive sales or curiosity, leveraging your app can have a big impact on your business’ holiday performance. But the holidays are just the start, and it’s essential to look forward to 2016. Apps are set to be an increasingly important component of driving mobile revenue, as well as desktop and brick-and-mortar sales. Invest in building your app now in order to stay in front of consumer trends.

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