Mobile, Tablets Lead Holiday Charge

Increases in online spending have been fueled by factors including m-commerce, tiered sale offerings and an upsurge in the use of social media platforms.

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NEW YORK — Holiday shopping has given new meaning to the term “click and order.”

In addition to a rise in the number of consumers and the average amount spent per buyer — beginning as early as Thanksgiving — overall increases in online spending were fueled by other factors such as a surge in mobile and tablet commerce transactions, luxury brands that typically don’t discount, tiered sale offerings that offer deeper discounts the more you spend and an upsurge in the use of social media platforms.

For Cyber Monday specifically, industry experts projected record numbers, hopeful that retail activity for the day would surpass last year’s $1 billion in sales, the biggest day of online sales in e-commerce history — until Nov. 28, that is. The single day shattered records in the digital sphere, becoming the most aggressive day in online shopping ever. Spending totaled $1.25 billion — a 21.7 percent rise from last year, according to a report released by comScore last Tuesday. Transactions on digital mediums were expected to leap by 15 percent — and reports indicate that numbers surpassed industry estimates by nearly 50 percent. The day saw 10 million consumers shopping online, each of whom spent an average of $125. This is the second time online shopping has reached the $1 billion mark in a single day (the first was Cyber Monday in 2010).

But the explosion in online sales didn’t come only on Cyber Monday. Black Friday raked in $816 million in online shopping, a 25.9 percent increase from the previous year, and Thanksgiving Day saw $479 million, an 17.7 percent increase from 2010.

Consumers are also shopping on the go more than ever — while eating, commuting or at school (so much for listening to teachers). In a report released by comScore Monday, 38 percent of smartphone owners have used a mobile device to make a purchase at least once. For the month of September specifically, clothing and accessories were the second-most popular category for smartphone device transactions (behind digital goods), with 37 percent of mobile users purchasing these items directly from retailers. As for location, 56 percent of mobile shopping occurred while users were at home, 42 percent while out of home in places such as restaurants and school, 42 percent while at work and 37 percent during traveling or commuting.

RELATED STORY: Cyber Monday Haul Surpasses $1.25B >>

The trend is continuing this holiday. “It should be called Mobile Monday,” eBay’s vice president of Mobile Steve Yankovich told WWD about the growth of m-commerce. “I call it ‘situational shopping’ because it’s about the situation that you’re in where you get inspired to buy a product. If you’re at lunch with a friend and they recommend a product [is one situation] and the other has to do with where you are — where you really have no alternative to act as a consumer. That is the time when you’re stuck on the train, or waiting for a plane to board, or in traffic. Now, you can actually be a consumer and buy in those situations, whereas before, you didn’t have a laptop with you.”

Cyber Monday saw a spike in mobile activity on eBay between two and two-and-a-half times the normal rate at which consumers conduct transactions on their mobile devices, according to Yankovich, who added that eBay’s mobile app has been downloaded more than 58 million times since it launched about three years ago — and it gets anywhere from 600,000 to 1 million new downloads a week. The app sees $180 in purchases a second, which translates to $648,000 an hour or $15.5 million each day. Twenty-four percent of all mobile activity is derived from clothing, footwear and accessories purchases — and when you do the numbers, this adds up. In a report released by the Web site, clothing, shoes and accessories was the most popular category shopped on eBay Mobile, and the top three fashion items purchased were Tom’s Classic Shoes, Ugg Australia Classic Short Shoes and Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Shoes.

“Mobile is transforming how people shop and how they expect to shop. It’s changing the game in how they think of physically shopping — whether it’s a companion to brick-and-mortar or avoiding the store altogether. Your physical location doesn’t matter,” Yankovich said. To that effect, comScore’s mobile shopping report found that more than one in three purchases occurred while the shopper was in-store, illustrating how mobile is becoming increasingly important as a counterpart to the brick-and-mortar retail experience.

Yankovich noted that the average item listing posted through mobile takes only 38 seconds from start to finish. On a weekly basis, the eBay app gets over a million new listings created this way. “You can stand in your closet, take a picture, and the listing is up in no time at all. Before you know it, you have cash in your account and you’re off to your next purchase. It becomes the fuel for the next acquisition, and mobile takes a lot of the friction out of doing that.”

Tablet shopping, which Yankovich refers to as “couch commerce,” makes up a double-digit percentage of eBay’s weekly mobile volume. He said on Thanksgiving at around 6:30 p.m., there was a huge blitz in transactions coming from iPads and iPhones — although the majority of tablet use occurs in the evening, as the device lends itself to post-dinner shopping between 6 and 11 p.m.

“You’re still with family, but it’s socially OK to whip out the phone or tablet while you’re still spending time with them. Why is Thanksgiving after dinner a big volume time, though? Because people are talking about what to get so and so for Christmas,” Yankovich said.

Experts expect the Cyber Monday boom to continue.

“It’s been on an upward trend for the last few years and it hasn’t hit a ceiling yet,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester Research, adding that although mobile shopping in general might prove to be a threat to hard goods and commodities such as PCs and appliances, it’s more of a supplement to the shopping experience for other categories such as apparel. It’s tablet shopping that is taking away from desktop shopping more than anything, but Mulpuru just calls this “device shifting.”

“Mobile and tablets have the potential to encourage people to be more connected to brands, to encourage shoppers to choose to spend their dollars online instead of in stores. We’ve seen that happening with flash-sale sites, which do a significant part of their volume on mobile and tablets. The effect though is still small, but it’s likely to continue to grow rapidly in the future,” Mulpuru said.

At social shopping search engine ShopStyle, 25 percent of overall traffic on Cyber Monday came from mobile devices.

According to vice president of marketing Melissa Davis, mobile page views were up 420 percent from last year (when the site launched its first mobile app), and in the past month alone, there’s been a 35 to 40 percent increase.

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