Smartphones, Tablets Spark Searches, Purchases On Thanksgiving Day

Wrapped-packages-AConsumers' love affair with online and mobile shopping continues to rise. On Thanksgiving Day online purchases rose 17.8% Thursday -- up from 16.4% midday compared with the prior year, according to IBM, which continues to benchmark the transactions.

IBM's Smarter Commerce division, which measures about 500 of the largest online retailers in the U.S., indicates that consumers got a head start Thursday. The division said the number of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer's site reached a new record of 28.5% around 6 p.m. EST, up from 16.2% at this time in 2011.

The number remained strong throughout the afternoon. At noon EST, 26.5% of consumers IBM monitored used their mobile device to visit a retailer's sites, up from 15.8% in 2011. The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase reached 14.1%, up from 10.1%.

Consumers continue to make purchases, but at a slower pace. Perhaps more were researching products and services they would buy in stores on Black Friday.

The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase came in at 15.4%. The iPhone drove more retail traffic than any other device, with traffic reaching 10.5% compared with 10.1% and 7.7% for iPad and Android, respectively.

Shoppers also referred from social networks like Facebook and Twitter generated .2% of all online sales on Thanksgiving.

Smaller tablets like Apple's iPad Mini will become game changers. For one, the smaller device fits comfortably in a woman's large purse or student saddle bag. And since it enables consumers to view products on a larger screen, purchases are more likely to occur for larger-ticket items.

What did consumers search for on desktops and mobile devices during the days prior to Thanksgiving? At PriceGrabber.com, research shows that nearly 17% of online traffic came from smartphones during the Thanksgiving week, from No. 15 -- Nov. 21, 2012. Tablet traffic also remained strong -- up 1,004.5% compared with the week prior. But the types of products that ranked at the top might surprise some marketers.

Clothing took the No. 1 spot for the most-searched items across smartphones, tablets and desktops. Electronics took the No. 2 spot on smartphones, compared with indoor living items on tablets and desktops. Indoor living took No. 3 on smartphones, compared with electronics on tablets and laptops. 

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