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Will Thanksgiving be the biggest mobile shopping day ever?

As retailers and consumers both move toward more shopping on Thanksgiving Day, mobile will be a big driver, with both retail sales and traffic expected to increase significantly on the holiday this year.

While a growing number of retailers are opening their bricks-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving Day, many consumers who are eager to take advantage of the deals are likely to simply pick up their smartphones to browse and make purchases. While 2013 may not be the year that mobile commerce sales on Thanksgiving Day eclipse Cyber Monday – traditionally the biggest ecommerce shopping day of the year – this is a real possibility in the near future.

“Mobile is absolutely why the Thursday and really the whole weekend is becoming a bigger deal,” said Brad Wilson, founder of online deals aggregator Brad’s Deals. “It is not just that we go to the stores on Friday and we shop at our computers on Monday.

“Mobile is going to become predominant,” he said. “If not this year, then very quickly it will become the main way that we purchase things online, and it will lessen the impact of Cyber Monday, and it will continue to chip away at bricks-and-mortar as well.”

Younger shoppers
In general, retailers are expected to see a significant jump in traffic from mobile devices as well as sales via mobile this holiday season.

Thanksgiving Day, in particular, could be a big beneficiary of the mobile trend as it dovetails nicely with a move toward earlier shopping.

Recent research from Accenture reveals that 38 percent of shoppers say they are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day this year.

For Thanksgiving Day shopping, 28 percent of consumers plan to do most of their shopping at a store, compared to 26 percent who plan to do most of their shopping online, according to Accenture.

Younger shoppers are the most likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day, with 55 percent of consumers aged 18-24 and 61 percent of 25-34 saying they are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day. In comparison, just 30 percent of 45-59 year olds plan to shop on this day.

Women are more likely than men to be shopping during the Thanksgiving holiday, with 42 percent of women expecting to shop on Thanksgiving Day, compared to 31 percent of men.

The survey also indicates that the lure of Black Friday as a major shopping event is at its highest level in five years.

After dinner shopping
Some expect Thanksgiving Day to see the highest percentage ever for online retail traffic, with mobile playing a big role in enabling that traffic. This is because consumers are often away from home visiting family and friends on Thanksgiving.

While many may not be nearby their desktop computers, they will have their smartphones handy and, once the meal is over, many will take to their phones to look for deals and make purchases instead of opting to leave the party to go shopping.

“There has been some backlash against the opening of bricks-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving, even as the numbers of consumers in the stores have increased, but mcommerce has the potential of taking advantage of consumers having access to the products and sales but not going against our sensibilities,” said Roger Barnette, president at IgnitionOne, New York.

“No need to leave you family’s side, miss out on pie or fight crowds while still getting deals,” he said.

Better mobile experiences
Smartphone adoption has skyrocketed over the past few years, driving mobile shopping because once consumers experience the convenience of shopping via mobile, they are hooked.

However, retailers’ mobile experience have not kept up with the significant role that smartphones play in consumers lives, which is one reason why mobile commerce sales are not bigger at this point.

“Mobile shopping has lagged a lot of other things on mobile,” Brad’s Deals’ Mr. Wilson said. “We are on mobile devices a ton, and the shopping component of that has really trailed.

“It is just about that catching up,” he said.

Retailers are improving the mcommerce experience all the time.

This year, many retailers have streamlined the checkout process to make it easier for mobile users to complete a purchase. Many sites and apps have also improved navigation, created more personalized experiences and tied mobile and social together more effectively.

All of these advancements will help drive mobile commerce sales.

Cyber Monday
With more consumers shopping on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, this has the potential to diminish the need to shop online from a workplace desktop on the first Monday back to work after Thanksgiving.

Cyber Monday’s position as a leading sales day is also under attack by retailers unveiling their Black Friday deals earlier in the month.

“Does mobile have the potential to kill Cyber Monday? Maybe,” said Nikki Baird, Denver-based managing partner at RSR Research. “But I think Cyber Monday is already at risk with retailers rolling out Black Friday deals way before Thanksgiving.

“But store-based retailers have a chance of using mobile to save the sale, just as much as online retailers have the opportunity to steal the sale,” she said. “So I think mobile will play a stronger enabler role in that battle.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York