The expected explosion of mobile media use during this holiday buying cycle appears to be starting. According to the IBM Smarter Commerce benchmark of online retail activity, mobile platforms were responsible for 14.3% of all online shopping traffic on Black Friday, more than doubling the 5.6% of traffic IBM recorded last year. Perhaps even more impressive, sales from mobile devices reached 9.8% of digital retail transactions, tripling the 3.2% of last year.
The surge in mobile activity was part of an overall 24.3% spike in online spending for the day over last year.
The iOS operating system was the dominant source of mobile retail activity, IBM reports. The iPhone was responsible for 5.4% of all traffic and the iPad 4.8%, so iOS alone was behind 10.2% all digital shopping traffic on Friday. The Android OS drove 4.1% of use. When it came to actual sales, the iPad predictably led the pack with a 4.6% rate of conversion to transaction, compared to 2.8% for all mobile devices. This metric confirms reports throughout the year that the iPad was proving to be an especially effective shopping tool where users were more willing to conduct a buy than they are on smartphones.
But IBM detects a highly "surgical" approach to mobile use. Shoppers on devices moved quickly into and out of their destination sites and did not stop to browse. The IBM benchmark shows that on mobile devices the bounce rate was 41.3% compared to 33.1% for overall digital commerce. This suggests that mobile shoppers often reuse devices in-store to research specific products.
One of the leading mobile commerce destinations, eBay, reports that it processed more than two and a half times more purchases on Black Friday this year than last. The company's mobile payments arm PayPal said it saw a 516% increase in transactions using their system and a 148% increase over current averages for Friday traffic. eBay's interactive services company GSI Commerce also said it had seen a 254% increase in mobile sales over Black Friday in 2010.
Clothing, computers and consumer electronics were the most popular items for mobile shopping on eBay last Friday, with activity peaking between 1-2 pm PST. New York, Houston and Miami mobile shoppers spent the most on eBay over the course of the day.
eBay also owns and operates one of the most popular in-store shopping apps, RedLaser. The company says that shoppers were using the app to scan barcodes on larger items than ever. High-definition TVs and Blu-ray disc players were the most-scanned items.
The Smarter Commerce survey is based on the IBM Coremetrics Benchmark that monitors real-time sales data from more than 500 leading U.S. retailers.