Where the Wild [Cell Phone] Deals Are (this Holiday season)

With the holidays almost upon us, shoppers are once again on the path to find the best available deals on this season’s "must haves". In the world of cell phones some notable additions to the usual suspects (iPhone anyone?) at the top of holiday gift lists include newcomers like Motorola Droid, its twin sister Eris (both exclusive to VZW), Palm Pre (exclusive to Sprint), HTC MyTouch 3G (from T-Mobile) as well as some new offers from BlackBerry (Storm2, Bold 9700).

Unfortunately new features, cool operating systems (hello, Android), and the ability to express your personal style through your phone do not always come for free. And with everyone’s budgets a bit stretched this holiday season getting the best deal available is likely to be the top priority for shoppers.

One source for "almost-too-good-to-be-true" deals is Agent sites (authorized online dealers that sell phones/services from multiple providers). Though not well known by many, certain Agent sites appear to be emerging as destinations for the hottest cell phones.

  • Total traffic to Agent sites increased 39% Y-O-Y and 4% Q-O-Q, as Amazon, Walmart and RadioShack put a renewed emphasis on wireless
  • This emphasis is paying off for some, as traffic to wireless portions of Amazon.com  and Walmart.com showed double-digit increases both Q-O-Q and Y-O-Y

Amazon has been a poster child of the increased interest in Agent sites as a destination for wireless shopping. Traffic to the wireless portion of the retail giant’s site almost doubled compared to January levels, propelling it to #2 spot among the Agent competitive set, trailing only Wirefly.com (however, Amazon’s new wireless-exclusive store did not see a similar influx in traffic). In addition to the traditional array of free phones and waived activation fees Amazon’s highly-discounted, short-term deals (e.g. 24-hour All AT&T Phones for $0.01 sale) as well as the promotion of wireless products through the Gold Box bring real value to shoppers and appear to be the key to success.

Increased advertising budgets, discounts on the hottest newly released phones (e.g. $150 Motorola Droid with new account or a 2-yr renewal) and big, limited-time discounts (e.g. 24-hour free offer for HTC’s ERIS) appear to be driving increasing interest from Big-4 Prospects and Customers alike.

  • On average 12% of Big-4 carrier Prospects and 8% of its Customers cross-shop on Agent sites over the last year
  • Volume of Agent-Carrier cross-shoppers increased 14% Q-O-Q and 65% Y-O-Y

All in all, Amazon’s wireless store seems to have found a way to attract shoppers looking for deals (the effective use of the 70M site visitors strong pipeline through homepage promotions and the Gold Box appear to have been especially impactful), while other Agent sites are yet to see similar success. One thing is clear, with an array or deals/sales and discounts from Agents and Carriers alike shoppers are likely to find something to cheer about this holiday season.