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Mobile is linchpin in driving Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales

Every holiday season, brands and retailers come up with new ways to increase sales. Over the past few years, many have integrated mobile into their strategies and have found success.

“Our findings reinforce that mobile is not just another channel,” said Chia Chen, New York-based senior vice president and mobile practice lead at Digitas.

“It’s a technology-driven cultural phenomenon that is changing how people are connecting to brands and commerce,” he said. “With more consumers shopping on their devices, brands are being provided with more mobile moments to address and create impact – even during a time of turkey, football, and family.

“As mobile becomes the primary way for more and more people to connect to digital – including commerce –  we’ll find that every day is mobile, not just Thursday or Monday.”

Mobile only
According to Digitas, the retail market is embracing and igniting “Mobile Thursday” by early store hours or online sales.

Take eBay for example. The company is ramping up its mobile efforts by heavily promoting mobile-only deals, which begin at 5:23 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

According to a recent study by Digitas, 28 percent of smartphone or tablet-owning adults plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day for the holidays with their mobile devices. This will be nearly double the percentage from 2011.

Furthermore, 29 percent of smartphone or tablet owners say that they have or plan to use their mobile device to assist with upcoming Thanksgiving holiday preparations. That number rises to 40 percent when focused on adults aged 18-34.

Mobile is also effecting college kids.

According to Digitas, two in five students – 38 percent – say they will do holiday shopping on Thanksgiving.

Moreover, 22 percent of students are more likely to decline a Thanksgiving meal invitation if they know they would not be able to use their mobile devices while there.

The Digitas study also revealed that 76 percent of those who shop by mobile device and computer say that it is easier to shop via computer.

Only eight percent of consumers surveyed said their shopping experience was easier via mobile and 16 percent said there is no difference between the two.

“The big news for retailers is that the battle for shoppers is definitely getting beyond just getting them in the store or onto the ecommerce site,” Mr. Chen said. “It’s also about getting on people’s smartphones and tablets.

“Mobile makes life shoppable – so retailers and brands need to focus on being a part of those moments when people are shopping on their mobile devices,” he said. “Honestly, the most surprising finding was that there were actually people who would decline an invitation to Thanksgiving if they couldn’t use their smartphones.

“I thought that if there is one institution that could withstand our increasing need to always be connected, it would be Thanksgiving. But it just indicates how much mobile is changing behaviors, attitudes and culture.”

According to Mr. Chen, mobile is going to play a very substantial role in the holiday shopping this season.

“It’s going to play three key roles,” Mr. Chen said. “As a way for people to research and compare features and prices, as a way for people to transact and as a way for brands and retailers to proactively reach out with offers and information.

Top trends
This holiday season, PayPal predicts that couch commerce will explode even further.

The term was coined by eBay and PayPal, and last year, both companies predicted that Thanksgiving Day 2011 would be a day when consumers went from their dinner table to their couch to start their holiday day shopping on Thanksgiving Day on their mobile devices.

Both companies saw a 511 percent increase in global mobile payment activity than on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

“Retail has fundamentally changed,” said Anuj Nayar, director of communications for PayPal, San Jose, CA. “We expect to see some of the phenomenon, massive spike in shopping on Thanksgiving Day and couch commerce to explode.

“We also expect to see a percentage of shopping from mobile devices to rise.”

According to Mr. Nayar, although many marketers tend to differentiate mobile and online shopping, the two are similar in many ways. Mobile shopping, however, is done on a smaller device.

“From our point-of-view, mobile is popular,” Mr. Nayar said. “People shop on their smartphones during the day and their tablets at night.

According to the executive, PayPal sees consumers shopping from their mobile devices during the hours of noon to 1p.m. and users turning to their tablets from 6-7 p.m.

“The way that people shop from their devices is different,” Mr. Nayar said. “It just varies at each device.

The shopping paradigm is changing and mobile is changing that,” he said. “I think the key point that we’re seeing as a company, is that consumers are using technology in new ways to find the best deals and they’re fundamentally changing what retail means and how people shop.

“The mobile device, more than anything else, has bridged the lines between online and in-store commerce. It’s changing the ways that consumers shop. Retailers have to react to catch up to what consumers are doing.”

Mobile shopping
For many marketers, mobile is an important medium to use to help them interact with the connected shopper.

According to Vibes’ Mobile Consumer Report, 54 percent of connected shoppers have compared prices in-store. In addition, 51 percent have looked up a product review, showing there is not much of a gap between comparison shopping and gathering more information about a purchase – leaving a huge opportunity for retailers.

Vibes believes that connected shoppers use their mobile devices a great deal while shopping in-store.

Of the additional in-store activities the connected shopper conducts, 45 percent have scanned a QR or bar code for more information, 33 percent have researched a product on the store’s Web site and 28 percent have used a company’s app in the store.

Additionally, 76 percent of connected shoppers use coupons at least half of the time while shopping; more than half have used mobile coupons, proving that relevant and timely offers continue to play an important role in consumer purchasing habits.

Smarter shoppers
According to the PeriscopeIQ Retail Intelligence Survey, consumers are becoming savvy shoppers, with more 41 percent pre-shopping online versus only 27 percent doing so last year.

Thirty-three percent check prices at other stores or at Web sites.

Similarly, 36 percent are using their phones to take pictures of merchandise, presumably for feedback from friends or family, or for comparison shopping.

Additionally, fewer than five percent of respondents claim to use mobile wallets like Google Wallet or Passbook.

“Despite the commotion about shopping on Black Friday, only a little more than a third – 38 percent – will be shopping this season”, said Mohamed Latib, chief operating officer of PeriscopeIQ. “A significant 60 percent won’t bother battling crowds the day after Thanksgiving.”

“Consumers are exercising their mobile shopping skills, with more than two-fifths – 41 percent – pre-shopping online versus only 27 percent in 2011,” he said. “”Consumers have increased their use of smartphones inside stores and are leveraging their devices to the frustration of retailers.”

Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday is a big thing for retailers.

A recent study from PriceGrabber found that most Cyber Monday consumers will shop from home. Thus, the mobile presence increases.

PriceGrabber recently ran a survey that revealed that when consumers who plan to shop on Cyber Monday were asked to specify from where they plan to shop, 83 percent indicated home, 11 percent said work and 6 percent said they will shop on the go from a mobile device.

The company believes that consumers’ mobile shopping plans continue to increase this holiday season, up from the four percent of customers that planned to shop from a mobile device on Cyber Monday last year.

“When it comes to mobile, consumers are going to be shopping more with their mobile devices than last year,” said James Brown, director of merchant accounts at PriceGrabber.

“Consumers are using smartphones to comparison shop,” he said. “One thing that we found through smartphone usage and mobile usage is that shoppers are more savvy.

“Most savvy shoppers are going to start the shopping process earlier and the idea of waiting. If they see things they want they will find those deals.”

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York