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Shopping for the holidays yet? Probably not. Our annual 2013 Holiday Survey found fewer than 19% of consumers polled started shopping last month. That’s 5% fewer than last year. Oh, and a projected spend of $825, also down 5%.

Why? Well, according to 15,200 consumers we asked about holiday spending and shopping activities, part of the answer has to do with increased use of mobile outreach and planning. Pair that up with increased numbers of retailer-developed mobile apps, and we find that consumers can plan more effectively and find best values faster and, thus, can shop in a significantly shorter period of time. Sixty-five percent indicated they had already used, or planned to use, their mobile devices to research shopping options. All of which means the time consumer actually feel they need to shop has gotten a lot smaller this year.

And if you’re honest about it, there’s a different ‘feel’ to the holiday marketplace this year. A kind of calm. Most retailers didn’t start their I-better-get-out-there-first holiday advertising right after back-to-school. Consumers don’t seem to feel pressured to “buy it now” or “Oh my god, I had better scarf down my turkey dinner and get to the (FILL IN THE NAME OF A RETAILER OPENING EARLIER AND EARLIER ON THANKSGIVING) parking lot to be first in line for those door-buster specials!” (Brand Keys HOLIDAY SHOPPING HINT: Use the zoom-in feature on your mobile device to read the small print for an accurate count of how many $199 60” Digital TVs are actually available before you freeze your jingle bells off standing in a frozen parking lot waiting for the doors to open at 12:01 AM Friday or 11:00 PM or 10:00 PM Thursday. Well, you can use your mobile to check updates on early-openings!)

Forty-five percent of those polled indicated they began shopping November, but 35% intend to wait a bit for the traditional Shop-on-the-way-home-Wednesday-and-maybe-on-Thanksgiving-‘cause-the-stores-are-open-and-certainly-Black-Friday-because-I-have-the-day-off-and-there’s-Grayish-Saturday/Sunday-and-why-not-check-out-Cyber Monday timeframe. What the heck, the holidays are upon us and that week is actually starting to become a kind of tradition of sorts, with consumers knowing exactly what to expect, and with that sense of expectation comes preparation (traditional and mobile), and with preparedness comes a certain tranquility.

For those of you spending the time eating and watching the 17 NFL games scheduled between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, you and another 35% of consumers think early December is just fine to begin shopping. There’s leftovers and football is football after all, and anyway there’s a pervading sense that pricing for virtually everything has finally gained some sort of market equilibrium, retailers have figured out their inventory controls, and mobile devices have just made it that much easier, so what’s the rush? Everyone is buying some holiday gift online (98%) anyway, and that’s available 24/7.

Even in light of this mobile movement, you can’t write off bricks-and-mortar retailers with retail categories are up an average of 5% from last years as preferred places to shop. The only traditional shopping mode that dipped was “catalogues” (50%, down 18% from last year), but maybe that’s just reflective of how mobile screens are substituting for traditional, stuffed-into-your-mailbox, 2-inch thick stacks of four-color coated stock.

What are folks going to buy? Well, naughty or nice, gift cards (95%) have become as universal as greetings cards (traditional and e-versions), and – with the exception of “Electronics, Phones, and Computers” (-11%), which now end up being purchased when new models appear in the marketplace and not saved specially for holiday gifts, and “CDs, DVDs and Video Games” (-15%), which are being swapped out for mobile downloads and apps – what folks intend to buy remains relatively unchanged from last year:

Clothing & Accessories                 75%                                       

Electronics/Phones/Computer       50%                                       

Personal Care Products/Spa         30%                                       

Jewelry                                           20%                                       

Food & Wine                                  20%                                       

CDs/DVDs/Video Games               15%                                       

Home Décor                                    8%                                         

Books (non e-version)                     3%                                         

As it has transformed other categories, mobile has changed the shopping engagement paradigm too. ‘Shopping Experience’ still leads the way in creating engagement and generating sales, followed by ‘Store Reputation’ and ‘Range of Merchandise,’ but a category once driven by ‘Location and Value’ is now more accurately described as ‘Connection and Value,” with expectations for all engagement drivers up again this year.

The bottom line’s bottom line?  What should be as clear as the digital image on your mobile device is, retailers that can integrate the store experience with their mobile outreach are likely to have a happier holiday season than their competitors. But however you celebrate – whether watching football or waiting for door-buster specials, making gift lists or limbering your fingers for Cyber Monday, or just cooking and eating too much and spending time with your family, we fervently hope you won’t need a mobile device to find plenty of reasons to be thankful.

And with our warmest wishes for the holiday, we pass along the following verse:

We often focus all our thought
On shiny things we’ve shopped and bought.
And while taking pleasure in material things,
Should not forget the pleasure friendship brings.
So we wish you a Thanksgiving you’ll never forget,
Full of love and joy – your best one yet.

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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