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Nightmare on m-commerce Street

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On a cursed All Hallow’s eve, the mist entwined the spines of the skeleton trees and the cold winter night wrapped her bone-fingers around my neck. I turned my collar up in defiance and defence and shifted my gait up a gear to hurry home.

This isn’t the night to be out after dark, I cursed to myself under my breath. Tonight is the night of horror.

And then.

A scream.

A blood-curdling scream from behind me. I froze and in that instant waited for the thud of a body hitting the leaf-strewn pavement and the inevitable slow steady foot steps towards me that would follow. I crossed my fingers and waited to meet my maker.

And then.

Nothing happened.

I turned slowly, holding my breath tighter than a mother holds her new born baby. And there I saw it: the girl, horror struck and trembling, her moon-white face back lit in horror by her phone screen.

“I can’t believe it,” she whispered. “I lost the auction for the Goldrush Victorian boots on eBay… bloody network…” and her red dress waltzed off past me into the night cursing under her breath.

Yes, night terror stalks the land, retailers. The nights are drawing in and the ghosts – and, if you’re lucky, the ghoulies – will be out and about any day now. But these night dwellers are not the stuff of horror stories, but the new breed of night shoppers that are driving the very seasonally-apt “vampire economy”.

According to Barclaycard – and probably Edgar Allen Poe – a third of shoppers now do they shopping after dark from the comfort of their mobile device (and largely in doors) and, with the clocks going back and nights getting longer, this new peak is set to extend.

While it makes a neat tie up with Halloween, the research underlines an interesting fact: shopping times and peaks and troughs are very different today than they were five years ago.

According to Barclaycard’s horror story the rise of on-demand services such as Deliveroo, Hungry House and Amazon Prime have made shoppers much more likely to reach for their device and shop at odd times of the evening – often feeling that they want to reward themselves after a long hard day or to make themselves feel better on the long cold journey through winter.

But what this really uncovers is that shopping habits are all over the place. Mid-evening peaks, peaks driven by TV shows such as the Devil’s own Bake Off and that horrific dancing show, bed-time browsing, insomnia shopping, the commute, the coffee break and so on. Mobile shopping has made it possible to browse and buy – often to sate that gaping hole of need in our ultra connected society that is strangely dislocated from a human point of view – and retailers need to be ready for it.

Horrifically for most IT bods and ecomm managers there is no downtime anymore, but for marketers there is the opportunity to tap into these groups. The rise of personalised retail and conversational commerce are both hot this week too and understanding the context of these ‘out of hours’ shoppers is going to be the next big thing in contextual marketing.

Understanding the shoppers ennui in the night and serving up what they want and perhaps engaging them in some sort of chat is going to shift how retailers meet the demands of these peaks.

However, the challenge will be how to essentially run a 24×7 operation. And that is a horror story in itself for many.

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