Friday, December 2, 2016

Mobile Shopping Increasingly Becoming an Integral Component of Black Friday

Black Friday has become a cultural phenomenon throughout the US. When it first started in 1952, it was just a day to start your holiday shopping, when stores discounted their products so that they could begin making a profit for the year and be "in the black." As time went on, the deals got better and better until it got to a point that people were waiting for hours in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving to get a chance at the best discounts once the stores opened. Over the past few years, however, stores have started to offer the same deals online as in the stores, which has reduced the number of Black Friday shoppers. Samantha Masunaga, in her L.A. Times article, discusses the shift to mobile shopping and some of the reasons why Black Friday continues, even with such decreased demand.

This year, it is projected that the e-commerce for the holiday season will grow to a valuation of over $117 billion. While Cyber Monday once represented the day when deal-hunters could get discounts on their online shopping, but now that so much of the Black Friday Shopping can be done online, many people consider Cyber Monday to be obsolete. It makes more sense to get their deals over the holiday than to find an hour or two in the middle of a busy workday to find the best deals. Retailers are seeing the difference: on Thanksgiving night, which has in itself begun to replace Black Friday, sales were 13.6% higher than last year, a total of nearly $1.2 billion.

Not only are people taking advantage of online deals rather than going into the stores, a surprising number of shoppers are doing so via mobile devices instead of computers. Nearly $550 million of the $1.2 billion total on Thanksgiving night came from mobile purchases. That's a 58.6% increase from last year's mobile sales. While mobile shopping is convenient, some people find it to be too much of a hassle and prefer using a computer, at least to complete their transactions. Not enough online retailers have improved their mobile layout, which has led to a projection that while 53% of e-commerce visits will happen on mobile devices, only 34% of sales will happen on apps.

Many customers find the checkout process to be too time-consuming or confusing on mobile apps for some businesses, and opt to go onto a computer or choose an easy-to-understand platform like Amazon to make their purchases. If online retailers want to stay competitive, they will have to improve their platforms, potentially by integrating easier payment systems like PayPal, Android Pay, or Apple Pay, rather than making customers try to input credit card information on the small screen of their smartphone. Target and Wal-Mart, among other companies, have noticed improvements in their mobile performance over the past few years. After fixing its online platforms and making it easier to checkout, Target even found that mobile sales over the weekend had increased by 200% from last year.

While mobile apps and online platforms are great for the tech-savvy consumer, many customers prefer the emotional connection to Black Friday that they get by physically going to the late-night sales. Some shoppers don't want to do online shopping because they would prefer to see the product up close and examine it before buying. Other people just enjoy the cultural experience of rushing through the store, hunting for deals. Whatever the reason, even if Black Friday becomes a mainly online phenomenon, it is very likely that there will still be in-store experiences available. Black Friday is a tradition for many shoppers, and especially since many people do their bargain-hunting online, crowding is less of an issue, many shoppers expect to be able to keep up the practice for many years to come.

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