Black Friday/Cyber Monday hit about two weeks ago – and all I've heard since is doom and gloom.
The "retail apocalypse" is here, and every "expert" out there is telling investors to "short" brick-and-mortar retailers… Wait, no, they should "buy" retailers on the dip.
Then there are those who try to explain that this isn't really an apocalypse and that this specific retailer is going to survive (but this one or that one isn't).
Over at Jim Cramer's TheStreet, I saw one writer recommend an ETF – EMTY, as in "empty" stores – whose share price rises whenever a brick-and-mortar retail stock index falls.
All this is ridiculous – and way more complicated than necessary.
But check out these numbers…
Adobe Analytics tracked $5.03 billion in online sales on Black Friday – and an even more robust $6.59 billion on Cyber Monday. And the analysts there think the stage is now set for e-commerce sales to surpass $100 billion this holiday season, a new record.
In other words, technology is behind the "apocalypse." So instead of picking among retailers to "buy" and/or "short," we should be investing in the technology that's causing the "apocalypse."
And though it's a good start, we can do way more than "buy" Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN).
In fact, we can get into an e-commerce-focused investment that's been doubling the overall market's return all year long.
One that shows no sign of slowing down…
A New Thanksgiving Tradition
While sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table, I'll bet a few members of your family kept peeking at their phones. (I hope it wasn't you.)
And they weren't just checking the latest sports scores or texting Aunt Joanie in Iowa. Fact is, millions of us spent time on Turkey Day playing "Secret Santa."
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You see, many Black Friday deals this year started a day early on Thanksgiving – and didn't even require a trip to the mall. All we had to do to take advantage was turn on our phones.
The numbers I'm seeing are telling me this campaign worked.
Amazon says that more than 50% of deal-related searches on Thanksgiving came through smartphones and tablets. Shopify Inc. (Nasdaq: SHOP), which hosts third-party resellers on Amazon's platform, said a stunning 60% of its Thanksgiving sales leads came through such mobile devices.
And the growth rates here are off the charts. According the Smarter Commerce activity report from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Americans made 65.3% more purchases during Thanksgiving using their smartphones than last year.
To be sure, most online shoppers still use their home desktops or laptops. Roughly 70% of virtual purchases are still made on PCs. That's because it's still a bit tricky to make purchases on a smartphone – whether because of their small size or because you have to download an extra app.
But there are a range of technology and financial firms out there working hard to make "mobile" commerce – m-commerce – as easy as traditional desktop e-commerce.
And that should help our smartphones our primary e-commerce shopping tool very soon.
No More Glitches
If you haven't done any mobile shopping yourself this year, I understand. Until recently, m-commerce has often been a complicated, glitch-heavy process.
But now, our mobile devices offer easy, clean access to virtually all of the leading e-commerce sites – right at the moment you're inspired to look up a sale.
So really, gone are the days of having to wait to get back home (or to the office) to use your desktop to make a purchase. This is good news for e-commerce retailers. After all, you might forget what you're looking for by the time you get there – and retailers love impulse buyers.
Firms with reliable, glitch-free, easy-to-use mobile sites are reaping the rewards.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) says that its customers used to browse sales on their phones – but wait to get back home to make their purchase. But a much revamped mobile platform has led the volume of orders placed on Walmart.com to double from a year ago.
How did Wal-Mart make it easier to shop on phones? The giant retailer made customer service easily available. It created better sorting and filtering options, better linked its home-page marketing banners to checkout pages, provided product reviews on every single page, and let mobile shoppers buy or reserve orders online and pick up in store.
Just a few years ago, mobile commerce sites simply lacked many of these features. But smartphones are now leading the way in e-commerce… and retail overall.
Overall online sales are growing four times as fast as brick-and-mortar sales. But m-commerce sales are growing up to 10 times faster than standard retail sales.
Simply put, retailers without a viable m-commerce strategy have begun to enter a sales death spiral – that "retail apocalypse" we talked about earlier.
This is the best way to make some money while you watch…
About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.