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Science & Technology

Tech Week Ahead: Cyber Monday


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Melissa Block. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.


BLOCK: And in case you haven't heard, today is Cyber Monday, the Internet's answer to Black Friday. NPR's Steve Henn covers tech and business. He joins us now from Silicon Valley. And, Steve, have you been taking full advantage of Cyber Monday?

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Well, I actually was doing some work getting ready for this interview.

BLOCK: No, not shopping, not shopping.

HENN: No. No. I haven't been shopping. But I also had a theory that Cyber Monday might not matter that much anymore. You know, so many people I know take their smartphones with them when they go shopping, and they're comparison shopping at stores over Thanksgiving weekend. And I kind of wondered if that meant that Cyber Monday would just disappear.

Well, it turns out my theory is totally wrong. Even though more people are using smartphones in sort of brick-and-mortar shops, Cyber Monday is still a big deal for many of the same reasons that Black Friday is a big deal. It's a chance for shoppers to find bargains, but this time online.

So special deals today are driving a lot of people online. ComScore, which tracks Internet traffic, expects today to be the biggest online shopping day ever, with something close to one and a half billion dollars in sales, 20 percent more than last year. So we'll see if they are right. But in the meantime, it's pretty clear that smartphones have already changed the way millions of people shop. They were using them to buy online over the holiday weekend and comparison shops. So that probably took a bite out of sales at brick-and-mortar stores.

BLOCK: And how are those brick-and-mortar stores responding to that?

HENN: Well, the biggest ones, the most technologically savvy ones are trying to embrace the smartphone. They've been building apps for a while for their own stores, and they're encouraging customer to use them. And really what they're after is all the kinds of information they can get from your cell phone.

For example, Wal-Mart's has an app that uses your location information to know which store you're in. And then it doesn't what merchandise is in store around you. If something you want is out of stock, then it can guide you to its online store. Other stores actually keep track of how long you have been in their stores, and they'll send you coupons for every few minutes you're there.

So all of these apps are really designed to keep customers from wondering, both digitally and physically. And the thing about smartphones that make them so frightening to retailers, though, is that it makes it so easy for you to wander, at least digitally, and comparison shop almost endlessly just with your thumbs.

BLOCK: And, Steve, do you have favorite sites that you go to for comparison shopping?

HENN: Yeah, I do. I have a couple. One is called Milo and it allows businesses to get their inventories online. So you can see what stores around you have in stock. And they've done a really good job of reaching out to small businesses, so I like it for that reason. The other site I like a lot is Decide.com. And this site was built by a computer scientist who studies dynamic pricing. And it tries to predict whether or not the price of certain gadgets and other goods will drop. And then it recommends whether or not it's a good time to buy. So I like this because it uses the same kinds of technologies that big companies have used to get the most money possible from us, and uses it for consumers.

BLOCK: To get better deals.

HENN: To get better deals, right.

BLOCK: NPR tech correspondent Steve Henn. Steve, thanks so much.

HENN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.