Last Minute Shoppers & Phone

There are more people on phones this now…and less people in stores.

The 31 days of december are color blocked with six themes: e.g. pretend to work days, actually shop (Dec 24), and after christmas, destroy you body with food and alcohol
Credit: Matt Shirley

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Is it me, or is there a trend to do holiday shopping and prep at the finish line, say the final week before Christmas or Chaunakah? I have barely sent out cards, barely gone to stores, and barely ordered online. But, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the holidays and searching for gift ideas. Regina, Richmond

Dear Regina : When you say that you have spent a lot of time thinking about the holidays and searching, I presume that effort has been online. That would indeed be consistent with two last-minute trends described on ThinkWithGoogle. Before shoppers head to stores, they plan the trips online, search out price, and study the store location and driving directions. These searches are increasingly mobile. (On CyberMonday about 1/3 of the online sales were made on phone.) ThinkWithGoogle says online browsing is inspirational, a source for gift ideas, and that apparently peaks just one week before Christmas.

But, to answer your question of whether we procrastinate more because of phones, there is a case. With next day and two day delivery guarantees, shoppers can hold-off for longer. Some may hope to score a better deal, and for others, it means accumulating more paychecks before buying, keeping all options open, and maybe setting aside time to be home when the packages arrive.

Sometimes, it’s just hard to know the factors: when I grew up my family had a tradition of shopping for new winter coats on Christmas Eve. I don’t think it was about procrastination as much as the fact that coats went on sale then and it was nice to have new ones for the holiday.

In current times, road traffic may have a lot to do with putting off shopping until the last week. It is stressful driving and difficult to find a parking space at the malls. So information gathering is faster, better, and more informed when it takes place online. At the point of purchase, shoppers pick a location that is closest, check the store inventory, and visit when the travel time is best.

The presence of phones really does change our habits and everyday routines, so we should expect that they will change how we think about a holiday and share it. Maybe a future Christmas will put less emphasis on running between stores and accumulating presents and place more weight on taking holiday images, sharing symbols of the season, or just staying home!

Santa and Video Chat

Should kids have even more screen-time with a video Santa? Husband will play role.

This photo mimics a sheet of paper. At the top it says 'from the desk of Santa Claus.' In the middle it has the line from the Casablanca movie, "Here's looking at you kid."

Dear Ms Smartphone: My husband is serving overseas and suggested he would dress up as Santa for a video-chat. We have two older girls and a boy, ages 10, 8, and 2. He wants to find out what gifts they want and thinks it will be fun. I am concerned that the kids will recognize his voice and find it fake. Kaycee,San Rafael

Dear Kaycee:

It probably does not matter as long as the occasion is done with parental love and caring. You can set up a plate of virtual cookies for Santa. The full effect may depend on how well your husband can act and how realistic the background seems (think North Pole, snow and elves). Perhaps your husband can get a friend to help him set up the chat, or sub-in as the Santa?

Going to a shopping mall and having kid’s sit on a stranger’s lap always seemed odd to me. My own children only did this once or twice, yet it led to a ‘mall shopped’ photo that became a family memento.

That said, having a video conversation with Santa also strikes me as odd. Paying a stranger with white hair and a beard to have a “fake” conversation with children? But, it is a thriving business. According to a story in the Wall St. Journal, a Denver based company, “Talk to Santa” employs more than 300 Santas, costs $34.95, and will deliver more than 10,000 videos this season. The business had only 80 Santas when they launched 5 years ago. Here are links to more sites.

Santas are Everywhere!

We should not forget the historical roots. In 1841 a “life-sized Santa” was advertised by a Philadelphia store and it was a crowd pleaser. Later, the Salvation Army began to dress up unemployed men to solicit holiday donations, and then the movies helped popularize Santa, kids, and holiday pictures.

What are the advantages of chatting with a video Santa? No more squirming kids having a boring time waiting in line, fewer chances of spreading or catching a winter cold, and a high level of personalization (parents fill out a questionnaire in advance).

What are the disadvantages of the video chat? Not learning to wait your turn, not learning to handle boredom in a snaking line, not sharing larger cultural values with strangers, and an over-customized ‘just for me’ experience.

Need New Phone.. Really?

My current smartphone works…why do I feel ‘pain to attain’ a new one?!

An ad for Warba Bank by We Plan. It is shows a VW bus going on an expedition "into" a larger-than-life smartphone.
Old car..New Phone! Source: WePlan- Warba bank

Dear Ms. Smartphone: It seems to happen every Fall. I see the ads for the new phones and I want so badly to get one. Since my current phone works well and it is compatible with the ones my friends use, I am conflicted about the real need for one! Zack, San Francisco

Dear Zack: With all the phone buzz (no pun), a lot of us are feeling that same “pain” to “attain.” Since I began this column on mobility, I wondered if there were parallels with the car industry.

Smartphones are in their infancy, so when we get a new phone there are step-up improvements. Cars used to be like that, and it made sense to reach for a safer, more efficient model.

But, over time, cars became more standardized and reliable. The two or three year trade in cycle for cars was done in by the recession and other factors.

That said, people need to be sold a reason to get a new phone.. or car. That’s where advertising comes in. For autos and trucks, advertising in the US is about $18 billion annually. It’s considerably less for smartphones: they live within the environment of mobile ads, if that makes sense.

You mention in your post that your current phone is compatible with the ones your friends use. Marketing people would call that a socio-cultural factor. There are economic issues, and psychological factors when it comes to buying or leasing a new phone. For example, which phone features do you weight heavily and pay attention to? Imagine the emotions you feel the ‘day-after’, once you unwrap the box and are routinely using the new device. In our culture, ‘the right call’ may be to try new things and keep ahead of the technology.

If you decide to get that new phone, consider donating your existing one to a senior or older person who is not tech-savvy.

I find that seniors tend to keep their smartphones and flip-phones ‘forever’. In the classes I teach, their older phones become a hindrance to being digital savvy and Internet aware.