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The Online Holiday Sales Numbers Highlight Mobile's Growing Importance

January 05, 2015

For frequent visitors to the Contact Center Solutions Community, you are aware of my fascination with the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. It provides real-time information and insights through IBM's Smarter Commerce portfolio that draw upon IBM’s investments in commerce and customer engagement solutions, as well as expertise gained from work with 8,000 global brands and 35,000 client commerce engagements.  

The last time the index results were presented here was in regards to Thanksgiving.  What they showed then, along with what was shaping up as a good holiday shopping season, was that mobile traffic had surpassed other online traffic for the first time.  Well, IBM has issued its roundup of all holiday online sales and the results and they confirmed that it was not only a great season for online transactions, but the importance of mobile only continued to grow over the entire period.

In short, the world really is going omnichannel when it comes to providing online shopping experiences and even those who enjoy robust online sales need to pay ever more at attention to mobile both for straight selling online as well as customers blending of the use of their personal devices when they are in physical stores.

Key trends reported by the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark

At a high level the major trends were as follows:

  • Online sales were up 13.9 percent over the same period in 2013
  • Mobile traffic accounted for 45 percent of all online traffic for the 2014 holiday season, an increase of 25.5 percent YoY
  • Mobile sales accounted for 22.6 percent of all online sales for the 2014 holiday season, an ncrease of 27.2 percent YoY

In terms of granularity findings of interest cited by IBM include:

Consumers Cash-In on Online Bargains:  Average order value was $119.33 down 8 percent over 2013, with shoppers purchasing an average of four items per order.

Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy:  Smartphones drove 31.2 percent of total online traffic, nearly two and a half times that of tablets, which accounted for 13.4 percent of all online traffic. However, tablets are winning the shopping war. Tablet sales accounted for 13.4 percent of online sales, compared to smartphones, which accounted for 9.1 percent of total online sales, a difference of 47.3 percent.

The Desktop is Not Dead:  Even as mobile shopping continues to grow, many consumers chose a more traditional online experience.  Desktop PC traffic represented 54.8 percent of all online traffic, and 77.3 percent of all online sales. Further, consumers spent more money on their desktops with an average order value of $125.12 compared to their mobile devices at $104.82 a difference of 19.4 percent.

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

  • Average Order Value:  Apple iOS users averaged $110.92 per order compared to $87.26 for Android users, a difference of 27.1 percent
  • Online Traffic:  Apple iOS traffic accounted for 30.3 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of Android, which drove 14.3 percent of all online traffic
  • Online Sales:  Apple iOS sales accounted for 17.6 percent of total online sales, nearly four times that of Android, which drove 4.9 percent of all online sales.

Facebook vs. Pinterest:  As marketers continue to rely on social channels to drive brand loyalty and sales, IBM analyzed trends across two leading sites, Facebook and Pinterest.  Facebook referrals drove an average of $101.38 per order, while Pinterest referrals averaged $105.75 per order.

A little something extra on the security front

It should also be noted that in a separate study on 2014 Cyber Security Trends, IBM Security researchers found that despite the headlines there was a decline in the number of cyber attacks against U.S. retailers. That was the good news.  The not so good news is that bad actors still stole more than 61 million records from these businesses over 2014.  What surprised the researchers is that during the two biggest shopping days of’ the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, attackers reduced their activity across all industries. Over the period from Nov. 24 to Dec. 5, the number of breaches from 2013 to 2014 dropped by more than 50 percent for this period.  

Along with the absolute needs to make sites mobile-friendly and blend the virtual and physical experiences in order to keep customers engaged and satisfied, another message from the results is that customers are using all of their online capabilities to take advantage of discounts. 

The now defunct Syms clothing store chain in the U.S. has a tagline that went “An educated consumer is our best customer.” In terms of customer loyalty that remains truer than ever. It also highlights the current dance of retailers using Big Data to get more perfect information about us for better targeting as we use the Internet to get more info about them.  What it translates into is that 2015 is going to see more investments in information technology as customers refine their ability to get value when it appears and retailers try to reach us with offers at a time when they think we can’t refuse. It certainly will be interesting which is why the IBM insights are so valuable. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle