Holidays heating up, head in digital direction

Retailers will be promoting early and often during the upcoming holiday season, especially with six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and mobile is sure to play an even greater role this year than it did in 2012.

Walmart has already announced the official start of the holiday season begins on Friday, Sept. 13, with a no-fee layaway program on categories such as electronics, toys, jewelry, small appliances and sporting goods. Those who follow the company on Facebook can open a layaway account two days earlier, in a sign of increasing multichannel integration that promises to make this the most digital Christmas ever.

Another indicator to that effect is the accelerating momentum of mobile commerce. Total m-commerce spending is poised to exceed $25 billion this year following a 24% surge in second quarter smartphone and tablet enabled sales that pushed estimated spending to $4.7 billion, according to digital measurement provider comScore. The firm said m-commerce spending in the first half of the year totaled $10.6 billion, representing 10% of total digital commerce during that time. With the expected seasonal surge coming in the fourth quarter, m-commerce spending could surpass $25 billion for the full year, according to comScore’s estimates.

“While mobile devices are already extremely influential in the overall buying process, they are also beginning to drive a meaningful percentage of digital commerce,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “One out of every ten consumer e-commerce dollars is now spent using either a smartphone or a tablet, and growth in this segment of the market is outpacing that of traditional e-commerce by a factor of 2x, which itself is growing at rates in the mid-teens. Any channel shift has the potential to be disruptive to established revenue streams, and it would appear that m-commerce spending has reached enough of a critical mass that key stakeholders must begin to address this new market dynamic today or risk losing competitive advantage.”

According to the firm’s data, the product categories with the highest m-commerce penetration rates were apparel and accessories (9.7%), consumer electronics (5.5%) computer hardware (5.4%), consumer packaged goods (4.3%).

ComScore’s data indicates smartphones drove a considerably higher share (6%) of total digital commerce than tablets (3.5%. While smartphone users outnumber tablet users by a factor greater than 2x, the average spending per device owner is actually 20% higher on tablets. This is likely a function of the platform’s higher income demographics and its greater similarity to the desktop experience due to its larger screen size, according to comScore.