In the military, there's a saying that generals are always getting ready to fight the last war.
It's the same thing in retailing. As we clear the dust - not to mention the smoke and mirrors - from the Thanksgiving weekend onslaught known as Black Whatever, it is becoming increasingly clear that while retailers are consumed with doorbusters and online promotions to be consumed before the turkey, the real retail battlefield is actually taking place in the hands - literally - of shoppers making their purchases on smartphones and tablets.
Any retailer that doesn't understand that just doesn't get it.
Like online sales in general just a few short years ago, the percentage of business done via mobile is relatively small: Maybe just a few points according to most studies.
But look what happened with online: Traditional retailers have been trying to play catch-up ever since and they've watched Amazon take enormous market share as they've attempted to understand how the rules of retailing had forever changed. Now, they are in the same position when it comes to mobile retailing.
Consider that some 15% of all shoppers made a purchase this Black Turkey weekend on a mobile device, either using a phone or tablet. Walmart says it expects 40% - 40 PERCENT! - of its online sales this season to be generated from mobile devices. And get this: 12% of the sales from the Walmart app are being made by shoppers while they are physically in Walmart stores. These are staggering numbers.
Even more staggering are the ones on the other side of the equation. According to some new research from a software developer, only seven of the 100 largest American retailers have optimized their websites for tablets. Which means 93 of these guys haven't. Duh.
And if the response from these companies is that the tablet market is relatively small and they can wait to focus resources on it, throw these numbers at them: Tablet shoppers are four times more likely to make a purchase than smartphone users and they typically spend about 150% more on average than their phone counterparts.
This is not just about price matching or sh'rooming. Any retailer who sees that as the primary weapon for mobile is missing out big time. Some smart stores are already sending coupons to shoppers on their phones as they enter the store, triggered by the location capabilities of their mobile devices. There will be lots more of these kinds of things to come.
This past Black Weekend will be looked back upon as the watershed mark of the way Thanksgiving business was done. There will still be doorbusters and early openings and scenes of mayhem and panic in the aisles. But even as retailers finally start to embrace online, they are already behind in getting their mobile acts together.
It's the next very merry merchandising melee.