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The busiest online shopping day of the year underlines consumer trends towards emerging channels

Today has been dubbed ‘Mega Monday,’ as the first shopping weekday of the month before Christmas. 

According to research conducted by Visa Europe and John Lewis, Mega Monday will be the busiest online shopping day in history in the UK, with £320 million predicted to be spent on Visa cards alone, as transactions hit 6.8 million.

Online shopping records were broken in the US on Cyber Monday – the first major shopping day after Christmas, with sales up 28.4% compared to last year.

Keeping pace with the trends

Chris Thomas, chief executive and founder of online footwear retailer Cloggs, commented: “Retailers looking to go from the red into the black have had to engage in multichannel retailing in order to attract more customers in the current economic climate.

“They are already being helped by the popularity of tablets and smartphones over the past year, which has not only given them more avenues through which to shop, it has also encouraged shoppers to share their latest purchases with friends and alert them to bargains.”

Now a series of consumer surveys point to the growing importance of mobile and social networking, as retailers look to maximise sales during this key trading season.

Mobile influence crosses channels

Research published today and commissioned by Wi-Fi provider The Cloud found that 73% of smartphone owners have used their phone when they are out shopping to check prices, look for offers or use apps like Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, while around one in eight of all UK adults (13%) regularly use their smartphone on the high street.

When independent research firm VisionCritical conducted the research 2,829 UK adults, it also found among one in five smartphone owners (20%) have used their device to upload a photo of themselves or a product when shopping and asked their friends or family for advice before buying it.

When asked if they’ve checked prices online via their smartphone when on the High Street or actually in a store, 22% of smartphone owners said they have and ended up buying a product instore. This compared to 19% who checked prices and then bought online.

Around the same number (23%) used their smartphone to check online for offers when they’re actually on the High Street. This compares to 31% who have used their phone for social networking on-the-go, 17% who have “checked in” via a location-based device like Foursquare or Facebook Places, and 10% who have watched TV or video on their phone when out shopping.

Tablet technology adoption grows

Around one in seven tablet owners (15%) use their device on the High Street, with 12% admitting to having used it to check online prices. However the same number (12%) then went on buy instore as bought online.

Vince Russell, managing director at The Cloud, said the findings showed that instore Wi-Fi is not simply about taking purchases away from bricks-and-mortar retailers. “These devices are changing every consumer-facing industry and high street retailing is no exception,” he added.

Further research carried out last month and commissioned by SAP among 1,002 UK online shoppers who use social networks found a third (32%) of consumers planned to do at least three quarters of their shopping online this year. 

Build out multichannel engagement

Roland van Breukelen, EMEA Cloud Presales for SAP, commented: “The focus shouldn’t be purely on driving spending or sales, as Mega Monday is well known for.” He said shoppers’ attentions have turned to social media, which now directly influences their buying habits: three in ten (29%) search social networking sites for reviews or comments before making a purchase, meaning that brands need to manage their online presence closely in order to encourage positive sentiment.

“They also need to be engaging directly with customers online,” added van Breukelen. “A quarter (26%) of consumers would stop using a brand if it fails to respond quickly enough, or at all, to negative comment on social media. Brands can’t afford adverse effects of negative publicity, especially as many are reliant upon Christmas trade to boost profits. A proactive approach to engaging with customers online will not only increase sales but directly impact brand loyalty this Mega Monday.”

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