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Holiday Shopping 2013: Watch out for Santa’s new digital elves and reindeers

By Katja Schroeder, Dennis Anderson

Forget chimney sweeping, Santa is sending gifts by same-day courier and his elves are roaming virtual shopping malls to stuff your stockings.

This year’s holiday shopping is on track to set a new record for m-commerce: Total e-commerce grew 24% to $4.6 billion on Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving, according to research conducted by BI Intelligence. The study concluded that m-commerce grew 63 percent and accounted for nearly $940 million in sales on those three days. One in four e-commerce dollars spent on Black Friday and Thanksgiving was on purchases made through mobile devices. Comscore is predicting a combined 14-17 percent growth in holiday desktop e-commerce and m-commerce compared to last year, keeping in mind that this year’s shopping season is merely 27 days, thus six days shorter than 2012.

Santa and his virtual elves also have a couple of new tricks up their sleeves. One of them is comparison shopping. 

While browsing stores for gifts, shoppers can use their mobile devices to compare prices with other online retailers.  Earlier this month Amazon introduced a Price Check app that helps shoppers compare prices and offers discounts if they purchase a desired item on the Amazon market place, luring more customers away from physical stores. Similarly, eBay’s Red Laser shopping app helps shoppers discover local deals, manage loyalty card,s and compare prices. Available for iPhone, Windows Phones, and Android, the app has been downloaded more than 27 million times, according to company information.

Just in time for the holiday shopping season eBay also launched digital storefronts for shoppers at the Westfield Mall in San Francisco this November. The digital storefronts at the mall feature giant touch screens where customers can browse and order displayed products from participating retailers, such as Toms Shoes, Sony, and Rebecca Minkoff, with a couple of swipes. Payments are securely processed through PayPal or credit card and products shipped to the desired location. 

In Europe, mobile storefronts have been in tested for some years. Swiss grocery chain Coop has put virtual shopping windows in train stations allowing people to shop for groceries and schedule delivery at home while commuting by simply scanning bar codes or taking pictures of the displayed items.  

In Germany, Adidas, which designs and manufactures sports clothing and accessories revealed a NEO Label store-front in Nürnberg.  Developed by TBWA\Helsinki and Symbio, the digital window shopping concept doesn’t require using apps or scanning QR codes. According to Adidas, the new storefront window is a fully functioning virtual store with life-size products. Its touchscreen window lets shoppers explore, play, and drag life-size products they are interested in directly into their smartphone for easy and convenient purchase from adidas NEO online.

The omnichannel shopping era has arrived. Not just for the holidays. Brick-and-mortar stores and Internet retailers use the latest mobile technology to offer consumers a constant stream of unique shopping experiences, tailored to shoppers’ consumption habits and lifestyle.

Now, it all just has to arrive on time for the holidays. But fear not, Amazon just announced same-day delivery, even on Sundays, in some selected markets, starting with New York City. In this case, sending a letter to Santa might still arrive on time the day before Christmas.

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