Shopping on the toilet? PayPal wants your (ahem) business

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If a consumer is willing to shop online through a mobile device while sitting on the toilet, retailers need to be in the bathroom with that shopper during the holiday season.

At least, PayPal sees it that way.

The e-commerce giant says it enjoyed its biggest-ever online shopping day during Cyber Monday last year in processing $25,000 in volume and 450 payments per second. But considering consumers say they are prepared to shop online from just about anywhere this holiday season, PayPal expects this year's transaction volume to be even heavier on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

This year, half of Americans say they will do holiday shopping while binge-watching TV programs, and that number rises to nearly 60% for millennials, according to PayPal's first Holiday Money Habits report.

The company surveyed 1,000 consumers between the ages of 18 and 55 during a week in October to determine their interest in and intentions to shop online through mobile devices during the holidays.

"The big-picture takeaway is that technology is completely transforming the shopping experience, and giving people the control to spend, send and donate money on their own terms," said Pablo Rodriguez, senior director of global consumer initiatives at PayPal.

Their "own terms" includes shopping while sitting on the toilet — a habit that 22% of consumers say they engage in — while another 34% will shop in their bed for a spouse or partner who is sleeping right next to them at the time.

For families that cringe when mobile phones turn up at the dinner table, it could get worse. Thirty-five percent of American consumers say they would shop online at the Thanksgiving table if they could secure a good deal from a retailer.

"Millennials are driving a 'shop anywhere' trend," Rodriguez said. "This is naturally driven by mobile devices. And for those who shop while binge-watching a favorite TV show, that may have some interesting implications for advertisers within binge-worthy shows."

While mobile payments have generally been equated with small-value purchases at the physical point of sale, it is a different game when mobile devices are used for online shopping.

"While we found that shoppers mainly turn to mobile to stress less during the holidays, they are still spending big," Rodriguez said. "Based on prior year's data, we predict the largest holiday transaction on mobile will cost more than $64,000."

The holiday shopping season is a "ratchet that moves mobile use up, because everyone is in a hurry and there is such volume," said Steve Mott, principal of BetterBuyDesign, a Stamford, Conn.-based consulting firm. "It tapers off when the holidays are over, particularly if any bad experiences occur over that time period. But mobile use is growing each year."

The expected surge in mobile for online shopping likely has retailers feeling pretty good about the upcoming holiday season. The American Express Holiday Growth Pulse report this week found that 59% of small retailers and 81% of mid-size retailers are anticipating better sales this year.

But translating mobile use for online purchases into mobile payment at the point of sale is a trickier proposition, Mott said. "Merchants will have to figure out how they can attract mobile use with a special deal available only to those who download their wallet app and use the offer in a specified time period."

One good sign: The notion that consumers won't download various retailer wallet apps may be waning, Mott said.

"I think they are giving up the thought of doing all of this through a general wallet with critical mass as the only way to do this," he added. "They are getting used to having several apps and using mobile for in-app payments, something I think we will also see more of during the holidays as well."

The habit of pooling money together for holiday gifts either with family or in the workplace will ultimately be transformed through mobile, the PayPal report indicated. "P-to-P is definitely on the rise in the context of holiday gifting," PayPal's Rodriguez said.

PayPal predicts more than 17 million P-to-P transactions in the month of December and that the gift box emoji will be used more than 350,000 times on Venmo during November and December as people gift money and get paid back.

"Of the 50% of millennials planning to pool funds to purchase gifts, 30% of them will request the money via P-to-P," Rodriguez added. "We certainly expect these figures to continue to grow as P-to-P becomes more commonly used among friends and loved ones."

In addition to being more practical for shoppers who want to avoid the estimated 53 minutes of waiting in lines in stores during the season, mobile will also be favored heavily for last-minute shopping and holiday donations, the report said. This is a factor Dunkin Donuts has already reported in last-minute purchases of digital gift cards for Father's Day.

Overall, mobile sits in a good place this holiday season, considering how some consumers dread the thought fighting through crowds on Black Friday.

Nearly 60% of survey respondents said holiday shopping is stressful, with more than a quarter saying they would rather shovel snow than shop, while 2% went as far as saying they would rather go to the dentist or text with their boss over the weekend than go shopping.

"In PayPal's case, there might be people who don't like PayPal, but they find them very useful when in a hurry at this time of year," Mott said. "Plus, in effect, PayPal in some cases is giving you instant credit on your account if you are low on money in the account, and that's faster than going to an ATM for money."

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