Growing up in the 80′s, the holiday gift buying season seemed to start only a few weeks before Christmas and I could hardly wait for those first holiday related commercials to start airing after Thanksgiving. Nowadays, holiday commercials are starting before Halloween. With the advertising change, the gift buying process has evolved immensely. The craziness of Black Friday has been curtailed as Cyber Monday has been ushered in as one of the largest drivers of holiday sales.

Some of the biggest changes that have occurred with holiday shopping have manifested the last few years. Last year, Walmart did a tremendous job leveraging social media with their “Walmart Elves” providing real-time updates of products and monitoring the shortages and missteps of other retailers to engage and entice potential buyers. This was a huge success for Walmart. This year, it is expected that most large retailers will utilize the same sort of process to attract customers through the chaos of what Black Friday has become.

Holiday Shopping Image

The Joys of Black Friday Shopping Last Year
Photo Courtesy of Fox News

It’s not just big retailers who are taking advantage of social media and online efforts to tap into potential customers. Their continues to be a trend of smaller e-commerce only retailers doing their best to leverage different shopping channels to provide lower cost products to have customers make initial purchases on “loss leaders” with the hope that they stay to buy other products. Additionally, these purchases now become prospects that they can continue to market to over the course of the year.

When you look hard at the changes in holiday shopping over the past decade and how many consumers now do their gift buying online, it’s interesting to contemplate the changes that the next decade will bring us. Who would have imagined 10 years ago that you could do holiday shopping via your mobile phone or be able to see real-time sales via sites like Twitter and Facebook? Who would have thought you could avoid the long lines and rushing around by simply sitting back on your computer and waiting for your boxes from Amazon and other retailers to arrive at your door step?

I for one embrace the changes to our digital society, but I will admit to reminiscing a bit about the anticipation of waiting to see the old J.C. Penney catalog arrive in the mail.

With the 2012 Holiday shopping season officially beginning on Black Friday, consumers have begun to seek out product reviews and price comparisons in order to find the best deals for this year’s “must have” items and according to recent market research conducted by Adobe, search engines and social media will be the most effective tools for shoppers this season.

Adobe Black Friday ResearchGraphic courtesy of Adobe Digital Index

The Adobe study indicates that 2012 will break retail records in its final months, with $2 billion in sales forecasted for Cyber Monday alone and a total of $96 billion in online sales expected between now and the end of December.  The driving forces behind these huge numbers are search engines and social media.  With an estimated 24% of all holiday sales coming from mobile devices, it is apparent that tablets and smartphones will also play an instrumental role in sales this season and going forward.

Surprisingly, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not the only significant days for shoppers this season.  Free Shipping Day, which takes place on Dec. 17th this year, is expected to generate millions in last-minute sales for online retailers.

With millions of shoppers worldwide using Web search, social media and mobile devices this year, it is crucial for retailers to enhance their online presence and visibility in order to capitalize on what looks to be the biggest season in retail history.  This season will also be important to SEOs, as various retailers will increase their emphasis on Internet marketing initiatives in order to gain more traction online and compete with retail giants on the Web.

Have you read Dan Heinkel’s recent post about Holiday shopping apps?  If not, check it out here and as always, feel free to reach out to me at brymshaw@webimax.com or on Twitter: @brwebimax.

Kenneth C. Wisnefski, online marketing expert and founder / CEO of WebiMax, announces how the evolution of the internet has changed the way merchants and consumers navigate the holiday season.  Components including E-commerce, reputation management, reviews and social media have supported the online marketplace that acts to end the traditional shopping experience people have enjoyed for many years.

“If we simply focus on the 2010 statistics of ‘Cyber-Monday’ versus ‘Black-Friday’ (on-line versus in-store), we see that Cyber-Monday experienced 16 percent growth to just over $1 billion in online revenue, whereas Black-Friday revenue only experienced a small increase of 0.3 percent compared to 2009”, states Wisnefski.  “The simple fact is that it is more convenient, consumers can read online reviews, and compare products and purchase from the comfort of their own home (not to mention they don’t have to deal with holiday crowds)”.

These figures are parallel to the success of small business start-ups entering the online advertising market.  Wisnefski’s firm, WebiMax, founded in 2008, has flourished due to the heavy demand for search engine optimization, search engine marketing, E-commerce solutions, social media, pay per click management and more.  The company’s revenue is up 400% year over year compared to 2010 and Wisnefski says “companies are investing more resources than ever before in to these online services.”  He furthers “we represent many retailers that are conducting most of their holiday business online versus in-store”.

It is well-documented that investments in E-Commerce are on the rise as consumers move on-line to make their holiday purchases.  In fact, comScore reported positive growth in E-Commerce spending for the last 8 consecutive quarters.

“The present-day consumer is more price-conscience and aware of competition amongst manufactures which are more reasons why demand is shifting heavy to on-line purchases versus in-store”, states Wisnefski.  “There is a plethora of resources available to the on-line consumer including reviews and ratings, product comparisons and customizing options which ultimately leads to a more educated buying decision by the consumer”.

The fact that companies are investing more and more each year in to E-Commerce and illustrated by recent holiday revenue statistics, it is strongly believed that on-line revenue will outpace holiday in-store shopping over the next few years.

“I will close with this.  Everyone loves A Christmas Story when Ralphie sees the BB gun in the store window.  Nowadays, Ralphie would have found the BB gun online and his parents would be reading reviews about how many kids actually shot their eyes out with it”!, exclaims Wisnefski.

Kenneth C. Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, the top rated SEO company, was interviewed today on Newzar.com. Newzar (New York, NY), founded in 2010 by Entrepreneur and former CBS News Executive Zev Shalev, provides breaking video news on the go.  Newzar is the first of its kind, delivering news to the 87% of Americans who access the internet daily on their mobile devices.

Wisnefski discussed the role that social media will play in this year’s Black-Friday shopping experience.  Wisnefski states that “Social Media, notably Facebook and Twitter are the ways that consumers are going to find deals this year”.  That statement seems to hold much value since industry statictics state 35% of Americans own a smartphone.  Wisnefski further states “Consumers may even save themselves a trip to the store if they view via Twitter that a store has run out of a certain product”.

The full interview can be seen here:  (Video is courtesy of Newzar.com)