Brands have been preparing for the holiday shopping season since October, but while retailers are busy prepping stores, customers are turning to mobile.

According to Harris Interactive, 28 percent of smartphone and tablet owners plan on shopping from their mobile devices this Thursday. The company surveyed more than 2,000 adults age 18 and older on behalf of Digitas. It found that nearly 40 percent of students plan to shop from their phones on Thanksgiving.

While this presents many brands with a major advertising opportunity, it could certainly put a strain on businesses that haven’t optimized their websites for mobile yet. Although screens are getting bigger, a mobile-friendly website will help you to offer customers a better shopping experience — resulting in an increase in sales. A negative mobile experience could drive customers to competitors.

And it’s not just students that plan on skipping the crowds. As Forbes reported, “Brick and mortar stores hold little appeal for our tech savvy female consumers.” Of those surveyed, 65.5 percent said that they would be doing most of their shopping online. That said, retailers are being urged to lower their expectations this year.

Not only are more customers turning to mobile, but they’re also planning on spending less. surveyed Forbes’ audience and found that a full 55 percent intend to spend less in 2012 than 2011. In fact, 59.7 percent indicated purchases will be influenced by what coupons they have — indicating that the use of social media to promote deals and specials might not be a bad idea.

Of course, we expect that conflicting reports will surface throughout the week. How you plan to approach the holiday shopping season is up to you, but don’t forget that mobile-friendly websites will benefit you long after the holidays have passed. If you’re interested in improving your mobile experience, we recommend taking a look at Google’s GoMo.

[Via: Mashable, Forbes, Image credit: William Brawley]