Retailers and businesses alike are already having trouble anticipating what this year's holiday shopping season will be like. While a survey released earlier this week found nearly nine in 10 U.S. consumers plan to spend as much or more than they did last year, other reports have suggested this year's figures couldn't possibly match 2010's record-breaking statistics.
What many analysts have failed to take into consideration are the radical changes in consumer shopping habits that have unfolded over the past year. New technology, a slowdown in the economy's recovery and even societal movements - as evidenced by mass protests around the globe - are altering the ways in which people shop, as well as the things they are buying.
Take the idea of the mobile shopper as an example. Smartphone and tablet market share is skyrocketing, and the ubiquity of these devices is allowing consumers to research products, services and deals in-store, underscoring the need for retailers to offer top prices, especially if a nearby competitor is able to trump their prices.
"Mobile has changed the game by letting consumers walk around the stores while being able to check prices," said Jill Puleri, vice president and global retail leader of IBM Global Business Services, according to Portfolio magazine.
Google recently predicted that 15 percent of total searches on this year's Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving - will come from mobile devices.
Shoppers are also leveraging social media to better inform their purchase decisions. They are now able to check reviews by friends and followers on Facebook or Twitter, or consult consumer reviews on sites such as Yelp or Angie's List. More importantly, consumers are holding faith in referrals from friends or family over marketing and advertising ploys from brands themselves.
Especially within the past years, many consumers have begun using YouTube and other web video resources to share product and service reviews.
"They may seem silly to some, but YouTube videos posted over the last few years by young, female fashion enthusiasts or so-called 'haul videos' are becoming a lucrative enterprise," Portfolio explains. "Some shopping enthusiasts who take to YouTube to share what they've bought for the cameras actually earn money doing so through YouTube's 'partners program.'"
This year, retailers need to recognize the evolving nature of the modern consumers. They are plugged-in, informed and intolerant of antiquated business methods. Make sure this year's strategy is aligned with these revelations.