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Mobile retail traffic and sales surge during the holidays

January 8, 2015 10:15 AM
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Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014, mobile traffic and sales surged across the e-retail board, IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark reports, with 45% of all online traffic to retail web sites and apps coming from smartphones and tablets between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, a year-over-year increase of 25.5%. Retail sales on mobile devices jumped 27.2% year over year, with mobile sales accounting for 22.6% of online holiday shopping in 2014, IBM reports.

Amazon.com Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Fanatics Inc. all report gains in mobile traffic during the 2014 holiday shopping rush. Fanatics, No. 47 in the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, says 55% of its web site traffic came from smartphones and tablets between Nov. 21 and Dec. 23, up from 45% during the same period in 2013.

“This year was a smartphone story,” says David Katz, senior vice president and general manager of mobile at Fanatics, a web-only retailer of officially licensed sports apparel and accessories. “All the growth we saw was from smartphones.” 

Smartphone revenue grew faster than traffic, Katz reports. That’s an impressive statistic as an increase in smartphone traffic often means more consumers are researching or browsing on their phones, and the smartphone conversion rate goes down, Katz says. He wouldn’t share specifics, but says the holiday season saw “new highs in terms of traffic and revenue,” which were trending up all year. 

“The holiday season is the cherry on top of a very big year,” Katz says.

On Thanksgiving Day, 70% of Fanatics.com’s traffic came from a mobile device, a spike the e-retailer normally sees only on big game days, such as during the World Cup soccer tournament.

This year, Fanatics invested in improving its mobile web site so that pages load faster; making checkout easier, by having addresses auto-populate, for example; and displaying larger, clearer and easier-to-read images Katz says. He credits the uptick in mobile traffic and sales to both these improvements and smartphone consumers steadily becoming more comfortable transacting via mobile device.

Wal-Mart, No. 6 in the Mobile 500, says 70% of its web traffic came from a smartphone or tablet between the five-day stretch from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, a period when Walmart.com delivered more than 1.5 billion page views. Wal-Mart reports that five-day stretch was its highest ever for online traffic and orders overall. Wal-Mart shoppers relied heavily on their mobile phones early in the holiday season: traffic from smartphones was five times higher than traffic from tablets during the first two weeks of November.

Industrywide, IBM reports smartphones drove 31.2% of total online traffic, 2.5 times that of tablets, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. More consumers, however, purchased on tablets than smartphones, as IBM reports 13.4% of online sales came from tablets and 9.1% from smartphones.

Mobile-optimized sites and data speeds are two major reasons m-commerce grew this season, says Hayley Silver, vice president of Bizrate Insights, the research division of Connexity, a marketing technology and services company.

“To take advantage of the growth in mobile phone usage in retail, retailers need to continue to optimize their web site experiences and ensure they are providing legible and useful information to the customer who intends to buy online as well as those who intend to buy offline,” she says. “Furthermore, retailers need to look at both online and offline store sales as being positively impacted by the growth in mobile phone access to their web sites.”

Amazon.com, No. 1 in the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, reports a whopping 60% of its online traffic this holiday season stemmed from smartphones and tablets. The e-retailer also says sales via its smartphone app doubled in 2014.

JackThreads, the web-only men’s apparel e-retailer that is No. 175 in the Mobile 500, says 58% of its sales on Thanksgiving Day came from a mobile device.

“Never underestimate any hour of the day or night now that mobile is king,” says Annie Trombatore, mobile chief and head of product. “No times are off limits, wee morning hours can crank in revenue like you've never seen before, so be ready.”

Follow mobile business journalist April Dahlquist, associate editor, mobile, at Internet Retailer, at @MobileInsiderAD.

 

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