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Thanksgiving Day, paid search deliver mobile holiday joy to retailers


Mobile sales reached 26 percent of online sales on Thanksgiving Day – the highest percentage for the weekend and Cyber Monday – making it one of the big mobile success stories so far this holiday season.  Another win is paid search, with the percentage of clicks coming from mobile devices rushing past last year’s numbers to top out at 44 percent.

Expectations were high going into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend that mobile would be a top performer for retailers and it did not disappoint. The numbers point to how retailers such as Walmart, Target and others are leveraging mobile applications, Web sites and paid search to drive traffic and sales this holiday season.

“We saw some pretty amazing [mobile] growth across all three days,” said Jay Henderson, strategy director at IBM. “It was actually highest on Thanksgiving, when mobile sales reached more than a quarter – 26 percent – of all online sales.

“That was followed by Black Friday with mobile accounting for 21 percent of all online sales,” he said. “And as of 12:00 p.m. EST on Cyber Monday, about one-in-five – 18 percent – of online sales are being made on a mobile device.

“What’s interesting is that we’ve actually seen mobile traffic absolutely explode so far today, growing 60 percent over Cyber Monday last year.

Cyber Monday
IBM reports that overall Cyber Monday online sales are up 18.7 percent in 2013 over the same period last year.

Mobile traffic accounted for 30 percent of all online traffic on Cyber Monday, up almost 62 percent compared to the same period last year. Mobile sales remained strong, reaching close to 16.5 percent of all online sales.

Taking a deeper dive, IBM reveals that smartphones were the browsing device of choice, driving 20.2 percent of all online traffic on Cyber Monday compared to tablets at 9.4 percent.

However, tablets drove more sales, at about 10.1 percent of all online sales, almost twice that of smartphones, which accounted for 6.3 percent.  Tablet users also averaged $131.10 per order, versus smartphone users, who averaged $114.73 per order.

As a percentage of total online sales, iOS accounted for 13.4 percent of online sales versus just 3 percent for Android. On average, iOS users spent $124.18 per order compared to $117.64 for Android users, a difference of 6 percent.

IOS was also the leader in terms of driving traffic, 20.7 percent of overall traffic versus 9.1 percent for Android.

Social shopping
The numbers also point to the important role that social media is playing in driving commerce sales, with shoppers referred from Facebook averaging $99.60 per order, versus Pinterest referrals, which drove $95.30 per order.

Facebook referrals converted sales at the same rate as Pinterest referrals.

“This year’s numbers underscore that retailers and marketers are really taking advantage of these shifts by making the mobile experience a centerpiece of their omnichannel strategy,” Mr. Henderson said.

“The winners this holiday season will be those that deliver a seamless, connected experience wherever and whenever their customers choose to shop, whether that’s online, mobile or standing in-store.

Paid search
Mobile is also playing a key role in delivering clicks from paid search this holiday season, with smartphones and tablets accounting for 44 percent of all paid search clicks over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, according to Kenshoo Social.

Additionally, smartphones and tablets accounted for nearly 40 percent of ad spend.

The big catalyst that pushed search marketers toward mobile this year was Google’s move to Enhanced Campaigns, which automatically opts all advertisers into both tablet and smartphone targeting.

The numbers suggest that retailers who do not allocate budget to smartphones and tablets will miss out on reaching and influencing their target consumers.

During the end-of-the-year shopping season of 2011, just 14.5 percent of total paid search clicks originated from mobile devices,” said Chicago-based Josh Dreller, director, marketing research for Kenshoo. “Last year, it almost doubled to 27.7 percent, and it was big news that more than one out of every four clicks came from mobile.

“This year’s numbers crush all expectations with almost half – 44.2 percent – of clicks during Thanksgiving and Black Friday originating from a mobile device,” he said. “It’s hard to say yet if retailers are spending ‘enough’ on mobile, because the rate of change with consumer multi-device behavior is moving so quickly.

“Marketers are doing their best to keep up, but the numbers show they are certainly taking notice and recognizing the importance of mobile in their online strategy.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York