A lot of shoppers will have only one hand free when pushing their way through the huddled masses of bargain hunters on Black Friday this year. 

That’s because this is predicted to be the most connected holiday shopping season ever, with more shoppers using a mobile device to comparison shop or keep track of all the deals they’re trying to find.

This shift is one that's grown over the past few years, with online shopping and smartphones changing how people shop. The research is evolving, but retailers and consumers can count on some general trends.

Why Not Just Sleep Late

According to recent Google research into shopping tendencies, people don’t wait for December to start their holiday shopping. Sixty-one percent of shoppers start their research before Thanksgiving, a figure that is up 17 percent from the previous year. 

That research apparently is convincing some people to stay home altogether when the bargains hit on Black Friday weekend. According to research from Deloitte, 59 percent of respondents said they planned to do their Black Friday shopping entirely online, a figure up from 52 percent the previous year. 

And for those choosing to do their shopping online, larger numbers are doing it on a mobile device. A big reason why that group wants to make their purchases online instead of in-store is that they don’t want to “miss anything,” according to the report. Being able to open up a new tab and quickly go from one site to another makes consumers feel like they are getting the best bargain when it’s time to click the Purchase button. 

Supplementing the Mobile Experience

Mobile devices continue to supplant traditional PCs when it comes to how shoppers do their Internet research. 

As the Google shopping report indicates, many customers will encounter several different “I want to buy moments” and turn to their smartphone for answers. Buyers often trust their own research more than what their friends say or the advice of the store clerk. For retail stores, this means finding ways to capitalize on this trend by offering supplementary experiences for their own products, such as reviews or applications that give the buyer additional information about the items in the store.  

Shopping service Retale's research confirmed these findings. It reported that those who do venture out to the stores keep their mobile devices at the ready to research competing deals, find coupons and get additional information about the products they’re after. Stores seeking to capitalize on this experience are offering interactive content, coupons or rewards for using the app in-store.

Black Friday Loses Its Mojo 

The expansion of the annual shopping hoopla to connected devices has decreased the emphasis on the actual Black Friday shopping day itself. With so many purchases moving online, many customers don’t feel as bound by store hours to look for what they want. 

According to the Retale research, half of customers will hold out to shop at their preferred retailers, even if they’re not open on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. And nearly one-third said they will shop the Saturday afterwards (known as Small Business Saturday) in order to support their local businesses.

Some have rejected the trend to open on Thanksgiving: Marshall’s, Costco, PetSmart, and others will stay closed until Black Friday. REI went even further, with a high-profile announcement it would be closed on Black Friday.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Ray Devlin