The Thanksgiving holiday in the US, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, traditionally marks the end of the harvest season. The holiday is an expression of thanks from Americans for their material and spiritual wellbeing. In more recent years the holiday, which this year fell on 24 November, is one for which the retail industry has been particularly grateful, especially for its boost to sales on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). Now the mobile industry has adopted the same festive spirit according to newly released data.
The first figures came out last week on Thanksgiving Day itself, with eBay revealing that US consumers spent twice as much this year on eBay Mobile as last year. In addition the auction site’s sister company PayPal saw a fivefold growth in mobile payment volume compared to Thanksgiving 2010, although this is a global figure and not limited to US users.
The data from the following day (Black Friday) was even more impressive. IBM, which tracks e-commerce statistics, issued a report which said 9.8 percent of US online sales on the day occurred via mobile devices compared to 3.2 percent the previous year, which is a big jump Retail traffic was led by Apple with the iPhone and iPad ranked one and two respectively among mobile devices in their share of total online retail traffic. Apple’s handset generated 5.4 percent of total traffic against 4.8 percent for the tablet. This means over 10 percent of all retail traffic on Black Friday was accounted for by the two Apple devices. And this from a company that has yet to adopt a mobile payments strategy. Android-based devices generated 4.1 percent.
A very similar story came from Channel Advisor, the e-commerce software vendor, which said 10 percent of sales from its paid search customers on Thanksgiving Day were through mobile devices. The vendor reckoned that tablets (aka the iPad) in particular had a major role, accounting for nearly 8 percent of sales. And Black Friday mobile sales were even higher than Thanksgiving Day, said the firm. And the trend continued over the long weekend. A Shop.org survey last weekend found almost 15 percent of respondents intended to shop via a mobile device on so-called Cyber Monday (November 28).
Superficially the bottom line looks like bad news for traditional retailers as consumers slump at home on their sofas purchasing via their tablets. Why then is a company like eBay set to open up a pop-up store in London (1-5 December) with two others opening in New York and San Francisco? Sure the stores are a showcase for eBay in how they can deploy certain mobile technology such as QR codes for the benefit of retailers. However the exercise is also designed to encourage consumers to crawl from their couches. The smart ones will take heed. Brighter consumers will still go out shopping but will use mobile devices to scan products and hunt for bargains between stores. That’s not necessarily good news for retailers but should be a cause for gratitude for the mobile industry.
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