It's no stretch to predict that this year, more holiday buying will be done online than ever before. More buying, period, gets done online with each passing month. Utility trumps adventure, especially if you're working 60 hours a week and trying to maintain a personal life. And there's no utility like shopping online, where you can scout, choose, order and even ship from all available sources in less time than you can wait at the Saks checkout counter.
What's not so obvious is the ignition audience for online spending. The sparks this year will be come from affluent Americans (mostly professionals), who comprise what I call empowered spenders. This group has expanded its influence online, as buyers and as influencers, steadily without fanfare for four years -- and for all categories and price ranges of products, not just the most expensive.
In fact, the people with the most money spend the most time online. People who make more than $250,000 a year are online 34.1 hours/week, according to Mendelsohn. That's more than any other group, including college students (30 hours). When they're not reading business media and researching competitors, they're deep-diving on passion sites (I say passion because it's hard to call a heart surgeon who races vintage cars a hobbyist.). What's more, the more they make, the more they'll spend to save time.
Black Friday means more in 2010 than it has in a long time. The economy is easing up ever so slightly, and people are beginning to spend a little. A very black Nov. 26th begets confidence in recovery as well as momentum for brands that spike. And not just from consumers -- Wall Street is watching to see whose product strategies are in touch with the American public.
Empowered spenders will have a disproportionate impact on who gets candy and who gets coal. Compared to the general market, this group spends two times as much on everything, and three times per purchase, says Mendelsohn. And they have an even bigger multiplier effect, thanks to rapidly expanding social networks and the simple power of aspiration. They're the Joneses everyone else has their eyes on. They're the ones who make Walmart and Ford okay with the cool crowd by word of mouse, whether that's by tweet or via Facebook Connect.
Their spending will take two forms: rational (value) and emotional (must have). Rational is predictable. Picture the attorney who seizes on a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal to order Harry & David for all of her corporate 100 clients ... in one click. Emotional is unpredictable. Everyone indulges around what matters to them. Picture the doctor who books a 20-person lodge for a week -- with fractional jet for all of his fly fishing buddies -- in 10 minutes on Jetsetter.com. Online supports emotional buying because a click takes half a second, but a physical checkout can take half an hour (that's a lot of time to rethink).
For now, these are reality-based scenarios. They will soon be backed up with research. For the first time, we're going to combine qualitative research via passion channels (e.g., business, arts, aviation and golf) with Crowdscience surveys and Aperture indices, in order to define the effect of the 50 million Americans making more than $100,000/year on Black Friday. The result will be the first actual meter on the impact of a coveted audience on a defining retail event.