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Thanksgiving Mobile Shopping Milestone Reports IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark

December 02, 2014

Yesterday was Cyber Monday and retailers are braced for the online gold rush. Traffic is likely to be up and contact centers extremely busy if the slowness of the Internet is any indicator. And, while foot traffic in stores was down, a fact I can attest to having gone shopping myself at one of this county’s largest malls on Black Friday, this does not mean that overall retail sales for this important start to the holiday shopping season will be off.  In fact, if figures from the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark about mobile shopping breaking records during Black Friday are an omen of what’s to come, it could be a very merry Christmas for retailers.  

Records are made to be broken

What the authoritative  IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, which tracks consumer transaction in real-time based on 370 performance indicators,  reported over the weekend was a record online and mobile shopping binge on Black Friday.  In fact, for the first time, online traffic from mobile devices outpaced traditional PCs on Thanksgiving Day.  

As IBM predicted within one percent of accuracy, Thanksgiving Day reached a new mobile tipping point with smartphones and tablets accounting for 52.1 percent of all online traffic.  Overall Thanksgiving online sales were up 14.3 percent compared to 2013.  

The Thanksgiving Day mobile momentum surged into Black Friday, which saw an increase surge in both online and mobile shopping as consumers brought their devices into the store to comparison shop.  The headlines here are that overall Black Friday online sales were up 9.5 percent year-over-year with mobile devices accounting for one-in-four of all online purchases. New York City also retained its title as the top U.S. city for Black Friday online shopping.

“Mobile has become the new Thanksgiving tradition as consumers find the best deals with their fingers as well as their feet," said Jay Henderson, Director, IBM Smarter Commerce. “We saw retailers harness the power of data to engage shoppers in new ways, identifying the unique preferences of their customers while quickly capitalizing on new online, mobile or in-store trends as they emerged.”

IBM released the following trends as of 12:00 a.m. PST Monday morning, at the official close of the two-day shopping period:  

Historic Mobile Milestone Spurs Online Shopping:  Thanksgiving Day mobile traffic accounted for 52.1 percent of all online traffic – the first time mobile devices have outpaced their PC counterparts for online browsing. Black Friday mobile traffic reached 49.6 percent of all online traffic, an increase of 25 percent over last year.  Black Friday mobile sales accounted for 27.9 percent of total online sales, up 28.2 percent over 2013.  

Thanksgiving Eats Into Black Friday Sales: Thanksgiving Day online sales increased 14.3 percent over 2013, with Black Friday up 9.5 percent year-over-year.  Average order value on Thanksgiving was $125.25, down 1.8 percent over 2013; Black Friday was $129.37, down 4.4 percent. This trend may indicate that shoppers are becoming more comfortable and digitally savvy in how they use online coupons and rebates to secure the best bargains. Black Friday online sales were 63.5 percent higher than Thanksgiving Day. This is a decrease from 2013, however, when it was 70 percent higher as Thanksgiving online sales continue to eat into Black Friday shopping.

Top Five U.S. Cities for Online Shopping:  New York City claimed the top spot for Black Friday online shopping followed by Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA; and Chicago, IL. New York City shoppers spent on average $121.91 per order on Black Friday.

Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy:  As the new digital shopping companion for many consumers, smartphones drove 34.7 percent of all Black Friday online traffic, more than double that of tablets, which accounted for 14.6 percent of all traffic.  Yet, when it comes to mobile sales, tablets continue to win the shopping war – driving 16 percent of online sales compared to 11.8 percent for smartphones, a difference of 35.5 percent.  Tablet users also averaged $126.50 per order compared to $107.55 for smartphone users, a difference of 17.6 percent.  

iOS vs. Android:  iOS once again led the way in mobile shopping this holiday season, outpacing Android across three key metrics on Black Friday:

  • Average Order Value:  iOS users averaged $121.86 per order compared to $98.07 for Android users, a difference 24.3 percent.
  • Online Traffic:  iOS traffic accounted for 34.2 percent of total online traffic; more than double that of Android, which drove 15 percent of all online traffic.
  • Online Sales:  iOS sales accounted for 21.9 percent of total online sales; nearly quadruple that of Android, which drove 5.8 percent of all online sales.  

The Desktop is Not Dead: When consumers did choose to use their PC or desktop, they spent more with an average order value of $135.33 compared to $116.02 for mobile shoppers, a difference of 16.6 percent.

 Social Influence – Facebook vs. Pinterest:  As marketers continue to rely on social channels to drive brand loyalty and sales, IBM analyzed trends across two leading sites on Black Friday – Facebook and Pinterest.  Facebook referrals drove an average of $109.94 per order compared to $100.24 for Pinterest, a difference of nearly 10 percent.  Facebook referrals converted online sales at more than twice the rate of Pinterest.  

Less Frequent, More Targeted Email Promos:  Retailers sent an average of 5.3 emails on Black Friday 2014, decreasing more than 11 percent over the same period in 2013, as retail marketers continue to send more targeted—and less frequent—messages to shoppers. Open and click-through rates – when someone opens an email and clicks at least one link – were 12.9 percent and 2.4 percent, on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day, compared to 15.4 percent and 2.8 percent respectively, last year.

The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark also reported real-time trends across four of the hottest retail categories—department stores, health and beauty, home good and apparel— this holiday season, which can be viewed by reading the entire analysis.   

The reason the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark is considered so authoritative is because of the comprehensiveness of the data captured. It is delivered to IBM clients through the company’s Smarter Commerce initiative, which leverages a $3.5 billion investment by IBM in its customer engagement platform and their work with 8,000 leading global brands and 35,000 commerce engagements.  

As noted, it will be interesting to see if this past weekend’s activities, including the celebration of Small Business Saturday in the U.S., ultimately show that people are in a spending mood, what it is that is grabbing their interest and the granularity of online v. in-store and the preferences of users in terms of the devices they use when shopping online. It will also be interesting to see how much help in the form of customer interactions with contact centers spikes as well. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle