Shopping online e-commerce

What once was Cyber Monday is starting earlier and lasting longer as mobile and online shopping blend with physical retail — and drive big business.

U.S. online sales are expected to hit $112 billion for November and December this year, representing growth of 13 percent from a year earlier, according to Forrester Research.

That bonanza is just about to kick off in earnest with the annual migration from Thanksgiving dinner to Christmas shopping.

A survey from Deloitte found that 55 percent of people plan to shop online on Black Friday, while 74 percent of respondents said they planned to shop online on Cyber Monday.

And during the holiday shopping weekend between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, 63 percent of respondents said they plan to “webroom,” or look at items online and then purchase in the store, while 44 percent will “showroom,” or check out goods in stores only to buy online.

“The vast majority of shoppers indicate they’ll head both online and to the stores over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and nowadays, they really look at those experiences as one,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman of Deloitte and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader.

Shoppers tend to be slightly more digitally focused around the holidays than at other times of the year. Forrester noted that online sales represent about 16 percent of total retail sales in November and December, but only about 12 percent of the total for the full year.

Wal-Mart this year is marketing a “Cyber Week,” starting the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 25. It has tripled its online product assortment to more than 23 million items, with online specials such as Prada sunglasses and Michael Kors watches for $99.99, deals on sunglass brands including Ray-Ban, Gucci, Miu Miu, Cartier and watch brands such as Omega and Movado. Wal-Mart is also promoting from deals such as Rebecca Minkoff bags for $71 and Frye and Ugg boots for $135.

Walmart.com’s Steve Breen, senior vice president of merchandising, said three out of four customers want to shop cyber deals earlier, so Wal-Mart is starting Cyber Week on the day after Thanksgiving.

Amazon got a head start, with a voice-shopping set of deals last weekend on Alexa-enabled devices. Ebay, which found that mobile shopping on Thanksgiving Day was up 25 percent last year, will start with mobile-only deals today.

The mobile phone is increasingly integral element of the shopper’s journey.

Google calls the phone  the “door-to-the-store,” reporting that 76 percent of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day. The search giant found that mobile shopping searches passed desktop for the first time on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2015.

Google research also showed that women search for and buy products on the mobile web at twice the rate of men throughout the holiday season, with mobile shopping searches peaking at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The week of Christmas, men are more likely to complete a mobile purchase.

While digital and physical tactics should work in concert, Deloitte’s Sides said it is critical that retailers’ digital influence fits specific purposes and shopping days during the holiday shopping week. “Cyber Monday is purely transactional, where features like prices, free shipping and online return policies move into focus,” Sides said.

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