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Holiday 2013 was all about mobile, the gift that kept on giving


By Jay Henderson, Global Strategy Director, IBM Smarter Commerce

With the holiday shopping season behind us, retailers are celebrating the joyous bounty of this year’s shopping season. Consumers continued to show their digital prowess and appetite for online shopping as online sales soared across the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, overall online sales from Thanksgiving weekend (Thanksgiving through Sunday, Dec. 1) were up 14.5% from the same period last year, with Cyber Monday online sales up 20.6% from 2012.

This year, several retailers embraced the broader omni-channel experience to bring the best of online shopping into the store to enhance, not detract, from overall online sales. Consumers installed 23% more retail applications over Thanksgiving and Black Friday as compared to the daily average over the last two months. Through these apps, retailers were able to push 37% more timely notifications to users that opted to receive alerts – these offers included nearby sales, special mobile coupons, even a price changes for watched items.

It was clear that mobile played a big (if not the biggest) role in helping retailers rake in record-breaking sales this year. On Cyber Monday alone, mobile traffic grew to nearly 32% of all online traffic, increasing by 45% from 2012. Mobile sales were also very strong, exceeding 17% of total online sales, an increase of more than 55% year-over-year. Here’s a look at how the big three shopping days stacked up in 2013:

Thanksgiving Day: Thanksgiving, which traditionally has been a slower day for retail sales, saw a nice bump as consumers took their smartphones and tablets to the dinner table, in an effort to get an early start on Black Friday shopping. Thanksgiving Day online sales grew nearly 20% from 2012, led by strong gains in department store online sales, which increased 60% year over year. Mobile sales increased 49% year over year as a component of all online sales, with tablets driving 16.5% of all online sales, almost twice that of smartphones, which accounted for 9%. Tablet users also averaged $126.49 per order, versus smartphone users who averaged $110 per order, indicating consumers buy on their tablets, but browse on their smartphones. And perhaps not all that surprising, New York drove the most online sales during Thanksgiving Day, rounding out the top five cities, which were Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Black Friday: Despite consumers shopping earlier this year, Black Friday sales were unfazed, still packing a punch in helping to drive online sales. Black Friday online sales reached all-time highs, growing nearly 20%. Mobile sales remained strong, reaching more than 21% of all online sales. Smartphones drove 24.8% of all online traffic compared to tablets at 12.8%, making it the browsing device of choice. However more dollars are being spent by tablet users, which drove 14.4% of all online sales versus just 7.2% for smartphone users.

Cyber Monday: Cyber Monday 2013 was a banner day for online sales, which were up 20.6% over Cyber Monday 2012. As the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, Cyber Monday was also the capstone for the highest five-day online sales period on record, from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, a period which saw 16.5% year-over-year online sales growth. Mobile traffic was bigger than ever, some 31.7% of all online traffic, up 45% year-over-year. Mobile also saw strong sales, exceeding 17% of total online sales, and an increase year-over-year of more than 55%.

This holiday season gave a nod to the growing power of the mobile shopper and online’s influence in driving big time sales for retailers. If this year is any indication of where e-commerce is heading in 2014, retailers have a lot to be excited about.

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