Sitting around the TV with my family on Thanksgiving this year, I noticed a trend: While the football games buzzed from the flat screen, instead of asking to change the channel or playing cards or playing with the dogs, my sisters sat on the couch with their laptops and shopped. One was looking for advance notice of Black Friday in-store deals, and the other sister was getting a head start on her online shopping, doing some buying and a lot of bookmarking.
As it turns out, this trend was much bigger than my living room. According to this article in the New York Times, online sales on Thanksgiving Day increased 33 percent over last year to $407 million. That’s a dramatic increase no matter how you slice it, and it could signify a sea change in holiday shopping.
Today is Cyber Monday, the traditional start to the online holiday shopping season. Already today, I’ve received no less than 50 emails touting sales and one-day-only bargains – some of which are truly lackluster compared to the door busters found at brick-and-mortars. I’ve started deleting the emails now without reading them. It’s too much. While online shopping helps consumers avoid crowds, this proliferation of marketing is the online equivalent of a packed mall; it can over-stimulate consumers into complacency.
Learning from what’s already happened this year is the perfect way to prepare for next year. Savvy retailers will start early, and market directly to those shoppers who are taking time away from the turkey to shop online. After all, these are the same people who are spending time with family and friends who they will eventually be buying holiday gifts for. Get to them while the gift ideas are fresh in their minds, and give them an incentive for being a smart, early shopper.