Black Friday: Mobile Devices Make Holiday Shopping a Snap

someone checks their Blackberry mobile smartphoneHow'd you like to do your holiday shopping stretched out on your couch?

If you've got a smart phone or most any mobile device and an agile thumb, you can shop easily and efficiently from your sofa or anywhere else. And mobile shoppers can still get the same bargains – or even better deals – than the fearless shoppers who brave the crowds and long checkout lines of traditional brick and mortar retail outlets.

"Mobile shopping is expected to be up about 100% over last year," said Jill Dvorak in a telephone interview with WalletPop. Dvorak is Senior Consultant, Mobile Commerce, for FitForCommerce, a best practices eCommerce consultancy.

"In 2008 mobile sales were about $396 million," she said. "Last year sales were $1.2 billion. This year we're expecting $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion."

Many of the top retailers, including Amazon, eBay, and Best Buy, have developed their own mobile applications to facilitate "thumb shopping" via texting and you can download them free.

Most mobile sites are very user-friendly and the prompts escort the consumer effortlessly through the steps required to search for an item, and then to buy it. So technophobes and the techno-challenged need not worry.

Almost everything's for sale, too, or soon will be: electronics, books, CDs, DVDs, show tickets, movie vouchers, you name it.

Because mobile shoppers are avidly sought by retailers, competition among the marketers is tough and consumers reap the benefits. You can sign up to be tweeted, texted or emailed with alerts on special deals, discount pricing, and new products or services.

Your mobile device can be targeted by zip code for deals in your neighborhood if you want to shop at your nearest mall. You can also be notified of special sales on specific items – plasma TVs, laptops, or certain books, for example -- that you've expressed advance interest in.

Alerts for online specials may also be sent if requested, if the buyer's preference is to shop on the Web.

Some retailers and brands will send product samples to interested consumers who want to try before they buy. Among the samples you can send for via text are cosmetics, fragrances, and hair products – look for the ads with the appropriate codes in women's and general consumer magazines.

For the persistent bargain hunter, you can compare prices from competing retailers and brands on your mobile device. Sellers want your money and they're willing to bend over backwards – although maybe not all the way – to get your business. And when you hit an irresistible deal, you can also alert your family and friends.

And no surprise – you may also now donate to some charitable institutions via mobile device.

An often-mentioned advantage of smart phone and mobile device shopping is the confidential nature of the purchases. Computer savvy kids can access your browsing history on the home PC or Mac, and figure out what you've bought them for the holidays, thus ruining the surprise.

But if you've bought the gifts with your personal smart phone, however, the kids won't know what you've bought them until the gift is unwrapped – unless they've peeked.

Many consumers are not yet aware of this shopping option, and a significant percentage of those who are, have reservations about the process. They may fear or not be comfortable with this unique form of buying. Or they may just prefer the hands-on experience of shopping at a store.

But mobile shopping is catching on fast and Dvorak predicts that future sales will grow substantially. "It's already very popular in the 18 to 24 age group," she said. "Forty percent of that group have made mobile purchases. Older folks are also beginning to use the new technology, with some 9.6% of people over 55 having made at least one mobile purchase. Mobile shopping has a fantastic future."
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