Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Jay Henderson, Enterprise Marketing Management, Global Strategy Program Director, IBM

By Jay Henderson

It’s that time of year again. As consumers begin making holiday gift lists for friends and family, retailers are hustling to get in-store and online web sites ready for the holiday shopping rush. As they do, the big questions surrounding this shopping season won’t revolve around when or what consumers will buy, but how they will buy.

Will mobile shoppers continue to take the lead? Will they shop more from their phone or tablet? Will consumers expand their use of social media this year? And how much will people be willing to spend?

These are questions IBM will be monitoring very closely through the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, which begins tracking online holiday sales data from Thanksgiving, through Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to Christmas. In the meantime, early results indicate it’s going to be an interesting and busy shopping season.

The latest IBM Retail Online Index for Q3, which was released last month, showed renewed growth with overall online sales increasing by 3.1 percent over the second quarter. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau also reported that sales for September were up 1.1 percent over August, another indication that consumers are preparing to spend.

The big trend that stood out from last year’s holiday season—which has continued into 2012—is the surge in mobile device usage for the researching and purchasing of goods. Mobile commerce has passed the point of no return. According to IBM’s Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, which is based on data from more than 500U.S. retailers, online mobile sales increased 88.8 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared with the same quarter in the prior year. In addition, we predict mobile sales will reach an incredible 20 percent of total online holiday sales this season, compared to six percent last year, and that mobile traffic will close in on 25 percent.

In the battle of tablets vs. phones, consider these compelling stats:

Tablets vs Phones 2012:
October 2012: 56 percent of mobile traffic came from a mobile phone, 44 percent from a tablet.

Top Tablets 2012: Tablet device as a percentage of all tablet traffic
October 2012: iPads continued to rule the tablet war with 80 percent of device traffic. The Barnes and Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle followed with 9.1 percent and 3.4 percent respectively. The Samsun Galaxy and Google Nexus lagged behind with 2 percent and .7 percent respectively.

One thing is clear: as we head into the holiday shopping season, people are getting smarter. They’re using social networks, mobile devices, websites and influencers to make buying decisions. And they’re using social media to share and broadcast their opinions.

These shifts in buying behavior have significant implications for chief marketing officers and retailers alike, especially during the holiday season. Why? Well we know consumers are going to shop. The challenge is that they will expect personalized shopping: tailored promotions, consistently available products and overall better quality and value for money, no matter what channel they use.

The good news is that it looks like retailers who can deliver an easy, integrated and personalized shopping experience both in-store and online will cash in on some big-time holiday cheer this year.

For a deep dive into expected holiday shopping trends, join me for a twitter chat on November 19, at 1:00p.m. ET. Direct Marketing News Web Editor, Allison Schiff will tweet from the @DMNews twitter handle and moderate a chat between Dr. Richard Feinberg, professor of consumer sciences and retailing at Purdue University, and me. Follow #smartershopping to join the discussion.

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