NEW YORK — Call it Mobile Monday.
While thousands flocked to their computer screens at home and work on Cyber Monday to take advantage of online deals, the digital barrier between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is starting to erode, with more online shopping than ever starting as early as Thanksgiving Day. The breakdown of the barrier results from one simple thing: improving technology.
Smartphones and tablets, as well as more widespread use of broadband Internet connections at home, are beginning to disrupt the retail calendar as consumers become increasingly comfortable transacting online. It’s allowing them to shop earlier, taking advantage of sales days before Cyber Monday.
While data for Cyber Monday won’t be available for several days, comScore reported that Thanksgiving Day e-commerce sales rose by 32 percent year-over-year to $633 million, and Black Friday sales saw a 26 percent increase to $1.04 billion. Forecasts were that Cyber Monday sales were expected to reach $1.5 billion, a 20 percent increase from last year. Research conducted by BIGinsight for Shop.org revealed that 129.2 million Americans planned to shop on Cyber Monday this year, compared with the 122.8 million who shopped online last year. Over 20 million intended to use a mobile device to shop (a number that’s increased more than five times from 3.6 million in 2009).
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“More so than just online in general, mobile is solely responsible for this shift in the holiday retail calendar,” Steve Yankovich, eBay Inc.’s vice president of mobile, said. Mobile volume on eBay on Black Friday this year was 2.5 times higher than in 2011, with the site offering its iPhone app users exclusive access to mobile deals through Monday evening.
According to year-over-year Black Friday mobile data from eBay, PayPal and GSI Commerce, eBay saw a 153 percent increase in domestic mobile traffic, PayPal a 193 percent increase in global mobile sales. The most popular hour for shoppers transacting on mobile occurred between 3 and 4 p.m. Eastern on Black Friday. Similarly, Thursday’s post-Thanksgiving dinner data showed a 133 percent increase in mobile traffic for eBay, a 173 percent rise for PayPal and a 170 percent increase for GSI.
Instead of referring to the days as separate holidays, Yankovich calls Thursday through Monday the “Thanksgiving Roll,” a theory he said was proven by the transaction volume that eBay started to see on Thanksgiving. He noted that the e-tailer has added 1.8 million consumers — brand new to eBay via mobile — in the first three quarters of this year.
In addition to single-handedly causing a paradigm shift in terms of e-commerce, mobile has become a significant customer acquisition channel that borders on viral, due in part to an “old fashioned social” component that exists when people transact on their mobile devices in the company of others.
“It’s situational shopping. The consumer is in control of when and where, not at the computer and where it works,” Yankovich said. “The holiday calendar shifting and what it means to the consumer has been thrown up in the air once people become mobile shoppers.”
He contends that growth continues daily right up until the moment before Christmas, but eBay’s most recent focus with respect to mobile has been the convergence of m-commerce with the brick-and-mortar experience. Ebay Now, which saw a soft launch in San Francisco this summer and in New York on Nov. 15, uses geo-sensing location technology from Milo and seamless payment options from PayPal to provide same-day shipping to consumers from hundreds of retailers in as fast as one hour. The minimum order amount is $25 and the delivery fee now is $5.
“Users will get immediate satisfaction because someone will hand me what I bought in an hour. You can be on a park bench in Times Square and have it delivered to that bench, as opposed to a residential address. We have a map in the app. This is really changing the game — local shopping is a big deal this year,” Yankovich predicted, listing Target, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, A|X Armani Exchange, Foot Locker, Urban Outfitters and Ann Taylor as participating retailers. “It puts the convenience [of mobile] and the controlling of the purchase in the hands of the consumer.”
A survey conducted by Sybase 365, the mobile arm of SAP, and the Mobile Marketing Association earlier this month estimated that 87 percent of consumers will use a mobile device to help in making a holiday shopping decision. Findings also indicate that half of all consumers will make a purchase via m-commerce this season.
“More people have those devices and it’s easier to access content around sales. As for people shopping earlier, that can be due to the fact that more people are aware that these sales are even going on,” Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said of mobile’s growing presence as a commerce channel, suggesting that brick-and-mortar store openings Thursday night may have encouraged people to check corresponding Web sites as well.
For her, it’s not that Cyber Monday is becoming less relevant; the bigger theme is that online is now becoming a more integral part of Thanksgiving weekend.
“The big story for the Web is still Cyber Monday,” Mulpuru said, adding that the projected online sales increase of 15 percent this year will result in online sales of more than $68 billion in the U.S. for the holiday season. “Thanksgiving Day traffic will be higher than your average Thursday — but it’s not Cyber Monday. The fact is that people now recognize you can get the deals on Thursday, and that they have more access to those deals, as opposed to having to go into your home office. It makes sense.”
Convenience is key to shoppers — which has helped make Amazon.com the two-ton gorilla in terms of e-commerce as it harnesses its extensive inventory combined with fast and often free shipping.
NEW YORK — Call it Mobile Monday.
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