Shopping via mobile devices went mainstream in 2011, according to new research by IBM.
Its study of 150 online retailers – pure play and multi-channel operators – found sales from mobile devices accounted for 12.9% of total online sales in December 2010 compared with 4.5% in December 2010 — an increase of 186.5%.
And the trend was consistent throughout the year, according to IBM.
In total, online sales rose 5.4% in December 2011 versus December 2010. But early retail Christmas promotional activity also drove spikes in sales in late November and early December. Online sales grew by 21.5% on 28 November 2011 versus the same Monday in 2010, for example, and by 30% on 5 December 2011 compared with the same Monday in 2010.
According to Andrew Jackson-Proes, IBM’s enterprise marketing management leader for UK & Ireland, the shift to mobile devices is making consumers smarter and more adept at making comparisons online.
“Shoppers are being much more canny,” he said.
IBM statistics for bounce rate – the percentage of people that only view one online page and then go somewhere else – are as high as 33%, he said.
“We are telling retailers that unless they can be really relevant on the first page, consumers’ attention span is really low – it’s what we call searchful shopping.”
While IBM’s study does not break out the retail categories performing well via mobile devices it does reveal which devices are driving sales growth.
According to IBM, Apple’s iPhone and iPad are ranked one and two for mobile device retail traffic in the UK in December 2011 (6.4% and 4.7% respectively). Android was third at 3.6%.
IBM also measures the impact of social shopping. While it only has a 1% share of overall traffic and Facebook accounts for the lion’s share (90%), it has a high level of influence, said Jackson-Proes.
The study also revealed there was an ‘iPad effect’ in 2011 with shoppers using the iPad driving more retail purchases than any other device. Figures show conversion rates for the iPad reaching 6.1% compared to 3.8% for all mobile devices.
Companies that can target a better retail experience on the iPad can expect to see further growth, said IBM.
Boxing Day figures also showed a surge in iPhone and iPad shopping, suggesting new devices received as Christmas presents were being used for the first time.
Despite the growth in online, shoppers are becoming far more discerning, said Jackson-Proes.
“It’s not good enough just to offer low prices,” he said. “People are looking for the whole shopping experience to feel more like a service. It’s not just about clever marketing. Understand what the customer wants and be relevant and then follow through on other aspects like delivery. There’s also no point in having an offer if it’s out of stock. It’s important to join up the pieces.”
Jackson-Proes said the trends in 2011 were persistent, however.
“The key trends – growth in online spend overall, the shift to mobile and the way in which consumers are shopping ie the high bounce rate – are consistent throughout the year, they are not just a Christmas trend,” he said. “It’s a fair bet to say we will more of them in 2012.”
Jackson-Proes offered online retailers three pieces of advice for 2012:
1. To make sure that online they are building awareness of what individual consumer needs are – at customer level.
“The consumer is fickle and if you don’t have the level of insight, you can’t personalise the offer at customer level,” he said.
2. Make relevant actions. Jackson-Proes cited L’Occitane en Provence as a retailer which has successfully used email marketing to boost online sales.
Timeliness of data ie real time marketing can also double conversion rates, he said.
3. Finally, look at the broader picture, not just relevant offers. Make sure you can provide solutions that put the customer at the centre. The selling and follow up service must be great as well.