8 ways tech is changing holiday shopping

  • November 23 2016, 11:49am EST
The spread of new payment technology and omnichannel commerce are changing the way people shop during the holiday season, even in brick-and-mortar stores. Here are a few noteworthy trends this season.

'Mobile Wednesday'

Not content with getting people's business on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, eBay is using mobile to draw traffic on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The idea is to put on sales for people to browse while traveling Wednesday night to their families. EBay says it already gets some of its "best growth" on that date, and wants to turn it into a formal sale to encourage the habit.

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Closing one channel on Thanksgiving

Perhaps to allow retail employees to spend time with family, or perhaps because the online and mobile channels will be able to pick up the slack, several stores are refusing to open on Thanksgiving for early Black Friday shoppers. GameStop, Barnes & Noble and TJ Maxx are among those that have formally stated they'll keep their doors closed. Of course, their digital channels remain open, and Barnes & Noble recently unveiled a new Nook e-reader that people can use to download books at any time.

Using stores to promote mobile

The website Apple created to promote its Black Friday sale lists no deals but instead directs shoppers to use its mobile app to get the timeliest information about its sales. This is especially noteworthy considering the tech giant had previously said it would stop doing Black Friday events.

Chip and Pain

Merchants’ frustrations with the painful U.S. EMV shift could come to a head during the crucial holiday shopping season with large swaths of the merchant landscape unable to handle EMV transactions, more than a year after the U.S. EMV liability shift. About 37% of all U.S. merchant locations are now EMV-enabled, according to Visa's data. Experts say the mixed EMV landscape consumers will face at stores this holiday season—plus the widely reported consumer perception that EMV transactions take longer to process—could stretch patience thin at the checkout.

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Inventing new channels

Amazon.com is being particularly bold in its move to create new shopping channels through Internet-connected appliances and its voice-controlled digital assistant. Its July 12 Prime Day sale was a test run for the holiday season, giving the e-tailer a sense of whether consumers would shop via its Alexa voice assistant to get exclusive deals.

Scammers in the holiday spirit

Online retailers should brace for a sharp increase in online fraud attempts this holiday season as fraudsters redirect their attention to e-commerce channels amid the U.S. shift to chip cards. ACI Worldwide predicts that e-commerce fraud attempts will rise 12% globally this holiday season compared with last year, but in the U.S. online fraud attempts will spike much higher, reaching 43% by volume.

More exposed

The same technology that empowers employees to boost sales during the holiday season can also provide a pathway for fraud. The number of permanent employees who accessed or sent sensitive data they should not have increased sharply to 30% in 2016 from 7% in 2015, according to IT and security professionals surveyed for Bay Dynamics' pre-holiday retail cyber risk report.

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Last minute gift buying

The prevalence of digital gift cards has given retailers an opportunity to cash in on last-minute shoppers. According to Dunkin Donuts, this phenomenon is particularly strong on Father's Day, when many people are scrambling to provide a gift for their dads without the luxury of waiting for an item to ship.