Consumers switch from gobbling to grazing holiday deals

Thanksgiving often acts as the kick off to the holiday season, but over the years it seems that it has become less about stuffing the turkey, and more about stuffing the shopping bags. Rather than gathering around and watching the football game before dinner, we are watching reporters update us on how long the lines are, who has the best deals, and what times the stores open. It’s no secret the massive crowds and sales that are generated each year, and retailers are eager to corral shoppers.  We are increasingly finding that stores are opening earlier, and sales lasting longer and that is just the trend this holiday shopping season – stretching, staggering, starting early, and most importantly for future years – shifting – from crowd to convenience.

Post Thanksgiving is a big pull for retailers and sales departments – Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and more recently, Giving Tuesday.  But these four days have transitioned into two-week long affairs in which the namesake of the day itself is increasingly declining.

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Black Friday has clearly crept into what is being dubbed “Gray Thanksgiving” as it is now expected for stores to open that Thursday, with some big box retailers starting as early as 6 a.m. Cyber Monday deals often start on Sunday, and Saturday acts as a day for retailers to claim as either a day of sale extensions from Black Friday or an early savings day for Cyber Monday. And going even further, some brands are even having cyber weeks, in which deals that begin Cyber Monday continue throughout the week.

It seems that the shopping holidays have blurred into one another creating a merger of sales and mass consumerism. It is no longer really necessary to differentiate the sale days, as more often than not “retailers have plenty of Black Friday deals that are available for shopping online, meaning that any new sales specifically designated for  Cyber Monday blend into the hoards of longer-running sales that began on Black Friday or earlier.”

Rather than the generated collective week of sales, a key take away from the shopping trend is that these savings days are not just brick-and-mortar store deals but are available online as well.

Stats from the past weekend are showing that the migration to online shopping is well under way. Cyber Monday proved to be the busiest online shopping day in history with sales up 8.5% compared to last year, and the busiest shopping day of this year with sales 30.5% higher than those on Black Friday.

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Retailers are noticing, and capitalizing on the shift in consumers buying behavior as online deals have become expanded and staggered. This year, Wal-Mart doubled the number of deals available online for Cyber Monday and will offer 500 new promotions a day through Friday. Target has 100,000 items on sale throughout the week, Kohl’s is advertising deals online through Saturday, and Amazon is offering new deals every 10 minutes all week long.

Amidst the shift to online purchasing, reports also noticed developing trends in how we online shopped. According to IBM, mobile accounted for more than half of all online traffic over the weekend. Even on Monday, where most shopped via desktop, mobile still accounted for 41.2% of all traffic, and 22% of sales. Numbers that aren’t too surprising considering the amount of people who would prefer convenience over crowds and the ease in which smartphone browsers and apps can perform any necessary shopping function.

Trends in the increase of online and mobile use could indicate that shoppers are becoming more digitally comfortable and savvy in using online coupons and rebates to get the best bargain – something that brick-and-mortar stores are very aware of. It is a term coined “showrooming”, in which people walk into stores, find a product they like, see the price, but then pull out their smartphone to find it cheaper online, and buy it there instead. In attempts to alleviate this, retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target, have all offered price match guarantees.

The message for shoppers this year is that deals will keep coming, and retailers don’t care how you buy from them – in-store, online, via app – as long as you are buying. What do these trends indicate for the future of the holiday shopping season?

“A continued flattening of the season,” says Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate, a company that sells software to retailers to help them personalize the online shopping experience. “One where people are more willing to wait to see what’s going on.”  As we mentioned earlier, Duncalfe also comments on the increasing parity between online and in-store deals but also mentions the convenience of same-day shipping and buy online – pick up in-store options. All of which she says, are making it easier for consumers to wait out the season for the best prices.

If you still have shopping to do you can grab plenty of good deals throughout the rest of this cyber week with most big box retailers, and sites such as fatwallet.com can help you monitor the best deals from them all.  If you’re in need of delivery before Christmas, the next biggest online shopping day is coming up on December 18th – Free Shipping Day.

Did you participate in any holiday shopping this year? Where did you find the best deals? Were savings better on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, or was there no difference? Are crowds worth the in-store savings, or does the convenience of online shopping make up for the slightly lesser savings? What are your predictions for the holiday shopping season next year?

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson

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