Digital Santa Claus: Online and Mobile Spending Tell the Story of Holiday Shopping 2012

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December 13, 2012 ‐ By Kimberly Maul

AP Photo/J Pat Carter

Digital tools are changing the way consumers shop, and this has never been more prevalent than during the 2012 holiday shopping season. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which saw $59.1 billion in total spending, including online sales, consumers have continued to not only shop online, but also use social media, mobile devices, and more to help in their holiday purchases.

According to engagement advertising company SocialVibe, 69 percent of consumers said they will do their holiday shopping both in-store and online, while 27 percent said they will handle everything in-store and only four percent said they will only shop online.

In fact, comScore has been tracking online spending and found that between November 1 and December 7, 2012, online sales were $26.8 billion. Compare spending to previous years and it is obvious how much e-commerce is on the rise. Looking at the week ending December 2, according to comScore, online sales were up 14 percent compared to the same time frame in 2011.

This year in particular, mobile has risen as a big part of the shopping experience. In the SocialVibe data, 28 percent of shoppers plan to use their phones to make shopping lists, 36 percent will take and save photos of items they are interested in, and 27 percent said they would check prices via their mobile devices, also known as showrooming.

Using mobile phones has become de riguer for shoppers and eBay reported that non-holiday days (ie not Black Friday or Cyber Monday) aren’t always so average. Sunday, December 9 was the largest mobile shopping day for eBay and PayPal, up 133 percent compared to the biggest mobile shopping day of 2011, December 4. The two companies expect $10 billion in mobile transactions and payments overall this year.

And we can’t forget about social media. While referrals from social channels may not be as direct, consumers still turn to their friends and family for advice and ideas via social media when it comes to holiday shopping. Or the networks themselves. Facebook just unveiled Gifts across the US.

The online and mobile aspect has made it seem like things are slowing down in-store. But retailers are bullish about in-store sales as well, and as last-minute shoppers wait to make purchases too late to be shipped in time, in-store sales will continue to be a major part of holiday shopping.

ShopperTrak, which analyzes retail foot traffic, reported that the week after Thanksgiving, the week ending December 1, saw an increase in foot traffic of 3.7 percent, and sales were up 2.3 percent. That week is traditionally a bit of a down time for retailers, right after Black Friday, so this bodes well for in-store sales for the rest of the year.

Overall, looking at all the digital and in-person ways consumers are shopping these days, it’s all about the multi-channel experience. Consumers want to—and will—interact with brands through the channels they prefer and those retailers who can take advantage of that will win in the end.

“You can buy online, return it in the store, go online and check product available, or go shop for it at the store,” Mark Larson, global head of retail at KPMG, recently told Business Insider. “We are seeing retailers focusing on being able to offer all of that.”

Are you an online or in-store shopper? How have you changed your shopping habits thanks to your smartphone?

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