Wither the packed holiday mall?

We all know the holiday shopping rush is a pillar of the season’s tradition. But I wonder if this annual frenzy is diminishing with time.

We may remember our parents darting out of work to Macy’s to purchase that perfect present for us as children. We remember the congestion on roads, swarms of people crowding mall stores. And we remember the ever-present competition to grab the last new ‘tickle me Elmo’ and shove our way to the check out counter.

But it seems to me that fewer people are making the extra effort to go to the store after work to find the perfect item. In fact, there’s evidence to prove technology’s impact. 

This year alone, a survey from the Mobile Marketing Association reported nearly 60 percent of mobile phone consumers polled say they will use mobile phones in their holiday shopping and celebration planning. 

This includes anything from finding directions to stores, comparing prices, staying within budget, searching for gift ideas, downloading coupons and even purchasing items directly from their mobile phone. Of those polled, 25 percent of respondents say they plan on using their mobile phones more during this year’s holiday season, compared to last year’s.

The data makes sense. Most of us would rather buy a purse or toy from the comfort our home sofas, instead of wrangling through mall crowds.

But maybe I’m the exception. I, for one, prefer physically seeing, touching, and trying out products before I purchase them. But marketers with online and mobile-commerce agendas have recognized this preference, as well. There are all sorts of ways to virtually zoom into products to see their texture, color and size.

And then there is the convenience factor.

Even more so than online purchasing, mobile commerce is becoming more and more appealing, as Americans adopt an on-the-go lifestyle. Thanks to technology, it’s easy to locate stores, find directions, discover the right gift at the best bargain and see what products are still in stock ahead of time.

Perhaps people will spend more time with family and friends during the holidays, as time spent on shopping decreases. Ideally, stress can be reduced through quick and easy purchasing power.

The smartest retailers are already becoming more mobile-inclined, strengthening their mobile site and mobile advertising as well as providing exclusive offers to mobile users. Consumers tuned into mobile-commerce may gain a competitive edge by having access to the best coupons and promotions.

For all the changes, I predict one thing that will not fail to attract consumers to the local mall: Santa. He may be the one thing that’s mobile-resistant.

Contributed by Claire Luke. Follow her @ Claire_Luke