Devora Rogers | November 27, 2012

Last year in the name of research I found myself at a Walmart in the High Desert of California at midnight with hoards of other shoppers. We were testing shoppers' biometric response to the insanity otherwise known as Black Friday. It wasn't pretty. We did get some fascinating learnings out of the study (you can see them here), but I am grateful that this year we opted to interview shoppers before Black Friday.

This November, we conducted a flash online study of 500 shoppers who intend to use coupons and mobile devices at record levels for their holiday meal shopping. What we found was heartening — from both a consumer sentiment perspective, and from a technologist's perspective.

We asked shoppers just a few short questions about their anticipated spending on holiday meal shopping, and their use of mobile devices and coupons to inform their purchases. We took bets — would shoppers hold back further in a still uncertain economy? Or would they spend more after two years of lower than expected holiday spending? What our study shows is that while shoppers are not going to go gangbusters, they do plan to hold onto holiday entertaining, with almost 80 percent saying they will spend as much or more in 2012 as they spent the previous year.

However, if they are willing to spend the same or more on holiday entertaining, they are doing so with careful planning and the help of coupons and mobile tools to help their money go farther. Seventy percent of shoppers say they begin planning for meals up to a month before Thanksgiving — this alone reveals a very thoughtful shopper. Only a small percentage of shoppers say their holiday food purchases are last minute.

Meanwhile, a remarkable 75 percent of shoppers will look for coupons/promotions to help keep their holidays bright. More than 30 percent of shoppers say they plan to use digital and print coupons on their holiday meal shopping. Between this finding and Inmar's other projections, we are now expecting a four-fold increase in digital coupon redemptions this holiday season.

Another key finding is in line with trends showing the rise of the "mansumer." This has been a growing theme this year and holiday shopping appears to be no exception. Eighty-two percent of men surveyed say they share in the decision making process around holiday meal planning — with 44 percent saying they are the primary decision maker. For brands seeking to reach a wide audience — don't forget that men are taking a greater role than ever before in the shopping process.

The last critical insight is the extent to which mobile phone shoppers (that is, shoppers who actively use their phone to inform purchase decisions while shopping — though it may not necessarily be "in aisle") are three times more likely to spend more this holiday as traditional media shoppers. It would be easy to assume smart phone shoppers are less inclined to use paper coupons — but not so. Our survey reveals that mobile shoppers are four times more likely to look for digital coupons as well as paper — and these shoppers tend to spend longer on average planning for their purchases. These mobile shoppers represent 40 percent of 18-54 year olds — and even 14 percent of shoppers 55+.

When I look at these numbers and see the steady rise of mobile and digital influence on the shopper journey, I see future access to information everywhere making shoppers incredibly engaged in all aspects of shopping — from doing research prior to purchasing to looking for deals and promotions . The brands and retailers who want to earn this mobile empowered shopper of today and the future should take note this holiday season.

Happy Holidays!