The number of consumers using mobile devices to make purchases this holiday season has skyrocketed, setting December up to be the most digitally connected Christmas that Australia has ever seen.

According to PayPal Australia, 22% of Aussies have used mobile devices to make a purchase so far this Christmas and it is estimated that $5.6 billion worth of purchases will be made on mobile phones by the end of 2012.

This is considerably higher than the $155 million spent in 2010, showing that mobile shopping is quickly growing in popularity.

Mobile retail this Christmas

Almost a third of the purchases that have been made on mobile devices this Christmas period have occurred between 8pm and midnight – and PayPal Australia’s Managing Director, Jeff Clementz, says this finding represents the new trend of using mobile devices to shop after store hours:

Our data demonstrates that for consumers, there is residual ‘shopping time’ continuing on from the ‘in-store’ experience after they leave the shopping centre, on their mobile devices. 

Additionally, we are seeing consumers shop in short mission focused bursts on mobile devices as they knock items off their Christmas list while commuting or relaxing at home.

But Margy Osmond, Chief Executive of the Australian National Retailers Association, said this spike in after hours mobile shopping could also be due to the fact that Australian stores have very restrictive trading hours:

The Productivity Commission recommended when it came out with its report into the retail industry two years ago that there needed to be a complete deregulation of trading hours. That’s about recognising that when people want to shop and how they want to shop has changed and consumers need to be given as many options as possible. 

While Clementz believes the popularity of mobile shopping will continue to rise this holiday season, he is expecting a drop off in the few days preceding Christmas as shoppers head into bricks-and-mortar stores for last minute purchases. 

Looking to 2013

It’s no secret that consumers can now shop anywhere, anytime on their tablets and smartphones, as internet connectivity is no longer limited to desktops in the home or workplace. Retail in Australia is changing, and fast, with Nielsen predicting there will be 64% personal ownership of smartphones and 39% household ownership of tablets by the end of this year.

Deborah Sharkey, Vice President of eBay Australia, believes the impact that mobile will have on retail will be just as huge as that of the shopping mall back in the 1950’s, but she says that the repercussions will be felt sooner, emphasising that the future of retail is overwhelmingly going to be mobile-driven, so retailers rapidly need to make this a priority:

This trend will have as much influence as the modern shopping mall, but rather than taking 50 years, the sweeping changes will take place in the next five years.

Australian retail is at an inflection point, and we are just beginning to envisage how dramatic the change will be. Consumers are already moving easily across devices, through any shopping environment.

A laptop, phone, tablet or TV… a store window, kiosk, or interactive fitting room… a shopkeeper or sales associate who knows exactly who you are and what you want.. this is how consumers are connecting with products. Not online or offline, just convenient shopping, anytime, anywhere. 

What matters most for today’s retailers is the need to play a role in aiding consumer discover – helping consumers find what they want, when they want it – be that in store or online.

[Image credit: Dan Zen]