Amazon and eBay target mobile shoppers with Thanksgiving deals

November 26, 2014 11:52 AM

Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- and eBay are stepping up efforts to persuade tablet and smartphone users to shop from their couches this Thanksgiving Day instead of going to stores on Black Friday.

George Wacker is fine with that plan. The 33-year-old resident of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, plans to spend Thanksgiving Day eating turkey with family, watching a Philadelphia Eagles- Dallas Cowboys football game and -- for the first time -- shopping for flat-screen TVs on his mobile phone.

“It sounds lazy, but it’s just so convenient,” said Wacker, who began smartphone shopping Inc.’s mobile application earlier this year. “It’s definitely a family holiday, but if someone else is taking a nap, I’m going to take 30 minutes to scan my phone for deals.”

By connecting those confined to sofas and dinner tables with stores offering promotions, smartphones and tablets are changing the way people spend the holidays. This year, mobile shopping is reaching a tipping point, with more than half of all online browsing on Thanksgiving Day -- 53% -- set to be done on mobile devices for the first time, according to International Business Machine Corp.’s Digital Analytics Benchmark, which has been monitoring online holiday shopping since 2007. That’s up from 6.5% of all Thanksgiving Day browsing in 2010.

The browsing is set to spur more mobile purchases, with 28% of all online spending on Thanksgiving Day coming from smartphones and tablets, up from 26% last year, according to IBM’s forecast. That exceeds the 18% share of online spending from mobile gadgets on Cyber Monday, and the 25% share from mobile for Black Friday digital spending, according to IBM.

Fastest Growing

As a result of all the smartphone and tablet shopping, Thanksgiving has become the fastest-growing day for online sales, according to researcher ComScore. E-commerce sales on Thanksgiving were $766 million in 2013, more than 2.5 times that of $288 million in 2008.

“Thanksgiving has become a phenomenon,” said Andrew Lipsman, ComScore’s vice president of marketing. “It used to be this day that everyone took off and didn’t plug in digitally. Now with stores staying open, there’s this permission to start shopping.”

What happens with mobile on Thanksgiving Day illustrates the larger shift to smartphone and tablet shopping for the entire holiday season. In total, online sales in November and December are expected to hit a record $61 billion this year, up 16% from a year earlier, with mobile sales anticipated to make up 13% of all sales this year, up from 12% last year.

Amazon, EBay and EBay Inc. are trying to capitalize on Thanksgiving Day’s mobile-shopping trend. This year, Seattle- based Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer by revenue, is for the first time offering holiday deals exclusively on mobile devices that won’t be available on its website, with some of the deals to be announced at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, said spokeswoman Julie Law.

At EBay’s PayPal electronic payments unit, Thanksgiving Day purchases on PayPal’s mobile app increased 90% in 2013 compared to the previous year and the company projects the trend will continue, said Anuj Nayar, PayPal’s senior director of global initiatives in San Jose, California.

Not Rude

“In your post-Thanksgiving feast tryptophan lull, it would be rude to leave your family and go to your computer, but it’s OK to sit there on your mobile or tablet while watching football,” Nayar said. “Mobile is just going to keep on growing because it makes things so much easier.”

Those for whom mobile shopping solves a problem are the most likely to embrace it, Nayar said. The top cities for PayPal mobile purchases on Thanksgiving last year were Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami, areas where traffic and weather prevented people from going to stores, he said.

The shifting shopping habits don’t necessarily have to present etiquette issues as long as participants are mindful of those around them, said Lizzie Post, spokeswoman for The Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont, which bills itself as a “civility barometer” for American society.

If using the device is central to the conversation -- for instance, picking a gift for a relative -- the practice is fine, she said. If you’re tuning out family members to engage with your mobile device, it isn’t, she said.

“As long as you’re not doing it on Thanksgiving Day at the dinner table, you’re fine,” Post said. “If it’s in the moment and it’s the right moment, go for it.”

TV Deals

For Wacker, the Bethlehem resident, shopping via smartphone is a matter of convenience. He anticipates doing most of his holiday shopping on his LG Volt phone while watching television. He said he realizes retailers offer exclusive deals on items on Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Thanksgiving, and his smartphone can connect him to those offers without the hassle of fighting crowds in the pre-dawn hours at a mall.

“I won’t be shopping during Thanksgiving dinner, but if I can save $100 on a TV, it’d be great,” he said. “There might be the best deal of the year on a TV that day.”




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