Digital Down Low: November 28th
Holiday e-commerce sales top $5 billion
- According to Marketing Land, Thanksgiving and Black Friday online retail sales exceed $5 billion. More noteworthy in some ways is that mobile devices contributed a record $1.2 billion to that total on Black Friday alone. There was mixed data on in-store traffic and sales with some sources reporting an initial decline vs. last year and others reporting small in-store gains. However on a percentage basis, online shopping growth far outpaced store traffic. While retail analysts and the media focus on the distinctions between online and offline shopping and the particulars and trends associated with specific shopping days: Thanksgiving, vs. Black Friday vs. the horribly named Cyber Monday, consumers just focus on bargains and convenience. Individual shopping days have given way to “Cyber Week” deals, some of which started before Thanksgiving and continue this week. Many “Cyber Monday” promotions began yesterday.
- Consumers are becoming much more “agnostic” about where they buy. Yet a huge percentage of online shopping is generated from the sites and apps of traditional retailers. This is one of the under-reported stories of e-commerce today. As one example, Macy’s website was over loaded with traffic and unavailable multiple times on Black Friday. Holiday shopping discounts are now typically the same offline and online, creating less urgency to come into stores.
- Accordingly, consumers are buying online from stores with physical locations so they can return products it they don’t work. Physical stores take the inconvenience and risk out of online shopping (with returns). These familiar retail brands also in still greater consumer confidence vs many online pure plays. Cyber Monday will exceed $2.5 billion in PC-based e-commerce and more than $1 billion on mobile devices,predicts comScore. According to estimates from the National Retail Federation, total retail sales this holiday will grow roughly 3.6 percent to nearly $656 billion. Much of that growth will come online.
Could Facebook put Chinese civilians in danger with their new censorship tool?
- According to Tech Crunch, Facebook wants to be unbanned in China, so it’s built a censorship tool that could hide posts about prohibited topics from people in China, according to The New York Times‘ Mike Isaac. Rather than censor posts itself, Facebook would potentially provide the tool to a third-party in China such as a local partner company that could use it to prevent users in China from seeing content that breaks the government’s rules. While China could unlock huge amounts of users and ad revenue for Facebook, the censorship tool could also be used to enact human rights abuse. If China could track which local users are trying to protest or bad-mouth the government, they could face persecution.
- Perhaps that’s why The New York Times says several Facebook staffers who worked on the product have left the company. So far, there are no signs that Facebook has offered the tool to Chinese authorities. We don’t have details on the specifics of how it would work. It’s apparently only one of several ideas Facebook has explored for getting access to China, and they might never be launched. But the existence of the tool brings up strong concerns about what’s best and safest for Chinese citizens.
- In a statement to TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson wrote: “We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country. However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.” Over time, the interpersonal connection via Facebook could strengthen communities who might be able to organize and protest the government outside of the app. Yet the censorship tool’s potential to be used to round up dissidents looms over any long-term benefit for citizens, or profit for Facebook.
Holiday pizzas will be delivered by reindeer in Japan
- According to Mashable, of all the U.S. traditions Japan has adopted, Christmas might be the biggest. And now one company is taking it to the next level by rolling out pizza delivering reindeer. No, it’s not the special eggnog messing with your eyes, you read that right, Domino’s Japan is currently training reindeer that will pull sleds packing fresh pizza around the country.
- Aside from the obvious attempt to connect Santa Claus with pizza, the idea for the reindeers came about as a way to continue to be able to deliver pizzas during snowy weather, when a bike is less practical. Each reindeer-powered sled will be equipped with the company’s GPS Driver Tracker, a system which allows customers to watch delivery people in real time as they make deliveries.
- In the case of the reindeer deliveries, the icons on the app’s map will be changed to reindeer icons beginning in December. Earlier this week, the company posted a video of the reindeer being trained. And while the initial training looks somewhat awkward, by the end of the video, the pizza-pulling reindeer look surprisingly normal. Now all they need to do is get all their delivery people to don Santa outfits and we can watch pizza sales in Japan explode in the run-up to Christmas. Dear Domino’s U.S.: can we please have this, too? Please?