Holiday Retail: Santa's Going Mobile


Michigan Ross faculty explore the new retail buzz.

The changing habits of consumers and evolving retail models come into focus this time of year as the holiday sales season kicks off.

Michigan Ross faculty are keeping an eye on the new trends and see some key themes emerging:

Shopping Goes Mobile



Puneet Manchanda, professor of marketing, is an expert on marketing strategy problems in social media and the pharmaceutical, high-tech, gaming, and insurance industries. He believes there are three major holiday retail trends that we will see this year:

1. The shopping season will continue to expand, starting at the beginning of November. More stores will also remain open on Thanksgiving Day. This will ease the burden on the demand side (making it easier for shoppers to find good deals) and the supply side (inventory management and staffing pressures will be lower).

2. While electronics, toys, video games, and apparel will remain the top shopping categories, there are no clear "must have" items this year so far. Retailers will also be risk averse, discounting products that worked last year to draw traffic to stores and websites.

3. As retailer apps get better, mobile shopping will continue to grow. Consumers are also likely to be more positive about O2O (online to offline) shopping—order online and pick up offline—but retailers are going to continue to struggle to deliver a seamless O2O experience.


Election Squeezes out Retailers

Jun Li, assistant professor of technology and operations, researches operations management and business analytics topics such as revenue management, pricing, consumer behavior, and economic and social networks.

“While the political campaigns were grabbing the headlines, retailers were worried about another — the holiday campaign,” she said. “The ups and downs in this election season certainly made it more difficult for retailers to buy ad space or to get holiday shopping on consumers’ minds. Now that the election is over, it offers marketers more chances to grab them. The only questions will be where, when and how?"

Tightwads vs. Spendthrifts



Scott Rick is an associate professor of marketing. His research focuses on understanding the emotional causes and consequences of consumer financial decision-making. He is particularly interested in understanding the behavior of extreme "tightwads" and "spendthrifts." "I do have a holiday hypothesis," he said. "I think within couples and families, where you have a lot of background information on the gift-giver's psychology, tightwads get more social credit for buying an expensive gift than spendthrifts. The intuition here is that tightwads find spending really painful, so for them to buy an expensive gift, they really had to make a psychological sacrifice. For a spendthrift gift-giver, buying an expensive gift probably caused them little distress. It wasn't much of a psychological sacrifice."

Greta Guest, Michigan News


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