Australia's internet retailers are pushing forward their Boxing Day sales to as early as Monday night, taking advantage of the plethora of shoppers who now turn to the web, smartphones and tablets instead of bricks and mortar.
Google Australia said nearly 40 per cent of shopping-related Google searches now come from smartphones or tablets. It said 2012 would be Australia's biggest online Christmas yet with overall shopping-related searches increasing by 20 per cent year over year.
The week ahead with Michael Pascoe
It's been a steady theme of 2012 that all the local retailers having trouble are blaming you naughty consumers for shopping online.
Dick Smith will start its online Boxing Day sales from 6pm on Monday night, while Myer's sale starts a little later at 9pm.
“We understand that shopping behaviour is changing ... we don't want customers to have to wait until Boxing Day,” said Dick Smith CEO Nick Abboud.
David Jones took the bold step of pulling its online store offline on Monday to prepare for its boxing day sales, which begin online on Christmas Day.
David Jones general manager Aaron Faraguna said he expected “high volumes” online but this wouldn't take away from store foot traffic. “National research has also shown that Christmas Day is one of the busiest days online for searches related to shopping,” he said.
Increasingly, online shoppers are turning to overseas sites, with British fashion e-commerce giant ASOS coming ninth in Google Australia's list of most searched for retailers for 2012 - the first time an online-only retail brand has cracked the top 10.
Harvey Norman will have some offers online from 9pm Monday night ahead of its full clearance sale deals, which go online from 12:01am on Boxing Day, said Ben McIntosh, its general manager of technology and entertainment.
But he said he expected regular online sales to be a lot bigger than mobile because people were at home and “mobile is usually busier when people are already out shopping”.
But Darren Winterford, whose firm Creative Licence Digital has created mobile sites for the likes of Cracka Wines and Grays Online, is expecting huge mobile sales. He said mobile devices were available on the go and within reach of the couch or kitchen during the holidays while the computer was usually located in the office or study.
His joint venture with dmg radio, ShopperNova, is offering deals via Apple's Passbook on iPhone and iPad with at least 21 retailers - including ASOS, The Iconic, Appliances Online, Jigsaw and Diva - from 7am on Boxing Day.
“A lot of those brands are starting to see probably 12-15 per cent of all of their total sales come through mobile,” said Winterford.
“Almost all retail brands that are running sales either on Boxing Day or earlier are passing the savings through to their online stores and mobile sites trying to cash in on those users either unable or unwilling to make the suburban malls.”
Winterford said ShopperNova serviced about 50,000-60,000 unique visitors a day and during a recent promotion for ASOS had 15,000 consumers in the first 15 minutes.
Google released research in May showing 94 per cent of Australians had researched a product or service on their phone and 28 per cent had bought a product or service on their smartphone.
The Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index released by industry group AIMIA in September found 40 per cent of respondents used their mobile phone to compare prices online and to look at reviews before making a purchase.
Google Australia's Ross McDonald said it was no longer enough for retailers to be online - they need to be on all screens including smartphones and tablets. Google estimates that among large advertisers only 1 in 3 has a mobile friendly website and that number is lower for small to medium businesses.
The Australian Retailers Association is predicting that $2.1 billion will be spent online with Australian-based retailers between Boxing Day and mid-January, compared to the $14.8 billion in total post-Christmas retail sales it is forecasting for that period.
ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman told the ABC that Australian retailers were “a little bit slow” in taking up mobile and online shopping but “they now realise the importance of it”.