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End of days

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According to my favourite news source – The Daily Mash – this week marks the start of when the likes of Amazon, eBay and online offshoots of stores start to see the rise in the search terms “woman gift’, ‘Kiera Knightley motorbike perfume’ and ‘books about relationships’ as men start to ‘half heartedly look for something appropriate to buy for a woman’.

In more prosaic terms the media – mainstream, business and satirical – are all getting hung up on the various days where online, store and mobile shopping will hit its peak this week and each has attracted its own amusing soubriquet such as ‘Cyber Monday’, ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Crikey I’ve bought nothing Christmas Eve’ (well, that’s what’s going to go down in my house if last year was anything to go by).

But in reality a slightly different picture is starting to emerge: sure there are some ‘hot’ days, but really the spread of when shopping is being done for Christmas is starting to be spread out. Now there are a number of peaks for tablets, smartphones, online, stores, early sales and, in my case, post-Christmas panic buying. Personally, I have never really bought into this Cyber Monday stuff – these peak days are, after all, statistical in nature: the country doesn’t wake up on Monday 2 December and all decide to do their online shopping.

OK, the Daily Mail et al now delight in taking a day off bashing Bulgarian swan-eating incomers to scare the pants of my mum that her presents won’t arrive unless she buys RIGHT NOW, but really these peaks are just peaks in stats and likelihoods. However, how much longer can they hold true?

It appears that now the fact that there are so many channels and that, thanks to the recession and the need to tease money out of consumer’s wallets, delivery is so much better, these peaks are starting to ‘spread’.

So far we have seen a surge in late November around tablet shopping. Tomorrow is Black Friday when everyone heads to the shops, apparently, and then Monday they all head online. But as Christmas nears, then men (well me and my mates) will start to think about what ‘er indoors might want for Christmas and we will reach for our phones, iPads and – for Tim – a trip to the shops.

Technology – and the precedents that it has set in non-Christmas time – is going to smooth out these frenzied shopping spikes to some degree at least.

And it has started to happen. Already, before we have had a whiff of Cyber Monday, mobile has started to rack up sales and, as said, an iPad sales peak has already been observed. This is because the devices are there, on our laps, in our hands as we watch TV, sit on the bus or even as we work at work.

We are also starting to see retailers trying to manipulate consumers to buy when they want and spread the load – and clear old stock. The past two weeks I have been inundated with promo codes for stores; codes that stand for a weekend or even just a few hours.

Next Christmas, thanks to how mobile payment tools are going to develop over 2014, retailers will be able to guide people to buy more at times of the retailers choosing by adding this ultra-limited special deals to TV ads, print ads and even posters thanks to digital watermarking.

Rather than everyone get all hung up on these peak days, I believe that, thanks to mobile, we will see this judiciously being softened out. It’ll also help me as I can be gently coerced into buying gifts and perhaps eventually not do all my Christmas shopping in a panic on Boxing Day under the influence of guilt, shame and port – a heady cocktail.

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