Online retail sales from mobile devices have doubled in the last year, increasing from 5.5% in December 2010 to 11% in December 2011, according to IBM. And the rate of growth has remained steady through the first quarter of 2012, increasing to 13.3% from 7% last year.
Mobile traffic saw even greater increases, nearly tripling from 5.6% in December 2010 to 14.6% in December 2011. Growth again held steady through the first quarter, with 17.1% of online sessions on a retailer’s site originating from mobile, vs. 6.1% in 2011.
“Over the first quarter, the digitally empowered consumer continued to demonstrate the momentum of the online channel and specifically mobile commerce, which has established itself as a legitimate channel for shopping,” said Craig Hayman, General Manager, IBM Industry Solutions.
What mobile devices are consumers using to browse and buy retail online? Back in December, Apple took the lead with the largest portion of mobile device retail traffic: 5.2% for iPhone and 4.3% for iPad. Android followed with 4.1%. In Q1, the iPhone was still ranked highest – at 6.5% – but Android moved into second place with 5.9%, followed by the iPad with 5.3%.
For purchases, the iPad is the major player, with conversion rates reaching 6.3%, vs. only 3.1 for all mobile devices during the 2011 holiday season.
“A whole new paradigm is emerging around the commerce experience being driven by the mobile phone trend as well as by tablets,” Jay Henderson, Strategy Program Director, cross channel marketing for IBM told MediaPost.
Mobile Shopping Explodes
Another Q1 survey, this one conducted by Nielsen, reveals that 79% of US smartphone and tablet owners have used their mobile devices for shopping-related activities. Smartphones are most popular for “on-the-go” activities, including: “Locating a store” (73% vs. 42% for tablets ), “using a shopping list while shopping” (42% vs. 16% for tablets) or “redeeming a mobile coupon” (36% vs. 11% for tablet owners).
However, this study also confirms that tablet owners are much more likely to use their device for online shopping: 42% of tablet owners have “used their device to purchase an item,” vs. only 29% of smartphone owners.
The majority of both smartphone (57%) and tablet owners (66%) use their device for “researching an item before purchase.” While only 27% of smartphone owners and 28% of tablet owners have used their device to make actual payments, that number is expected to rise “as more mobile payment systems roll out nationwide and U.S. consumers get more comfortable with the idea of mobile payments,” according to Nielsen.
Finally, a study released in late April by Placecast looked at various activities consumers performed via mobile, and compared feature phone vs. smartphone usage. The most popular retail-related activities performed via smartphone included:
- 50% of smartphone owners used a GPS/mapping app on their phone to find a retail location
- 44% accessed the website of a merchant
- 34% made an online purchase (higher than the Nielsen results)
- 34% used their mobile to download an app from a merchant where they regularly shop
All three studies indicate that mobile is already playing a important role in retail traffic and sales, and growth in these areas will only increase as smartphones become more prevalent and retailers make their sites and payment methods mobile-friendly. Is your brand moving into mobile?