M-Commerce Cyber Weekend Gains & the Android Paradox

There's lots of news today about the role mobile is playing in the just-started holiday shopping season. Most notably IBM reported a couple of days ago that on "Black Friday," mobile buying "soared with 24 percent of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. Mobile sales exceeded 16 percent [of online commerce], up from 9.8 percent in 2011."

But even more noteworthy than the increasing role that mobile is playing in holiday shopping, is the discrepancy between iOS and Android in terms of web traffic and user purchase behavior.

Source: IBM

Call it the "Android paradox." In the US Android handsets represent 52.5% of smartphone market. Apple's iPhone holds 34.3%. The share that is controlled by iOS is larger when the iPad is factored in but Android is the dominant OS in the US and globally. 

When you look at mobile internet visits, however, the relationship shifts -- with the iPhone and iOS driving much more web traffic than Android. Apple's devices also generate much more in the way of e-commerce sales vs. Android. Website Fab.com reports that 95% of its mobile sales are coming from iOS devices. 

IBM reported that 58% of consumers (of the 16% who bought something on a mobile device) used smartphones to shop for deals, while 41 percent used tablets. Here's how the traffic distribution broke down on Black Friday in the US:

Screen Shot 2012-11-26 at 1.49.07 PM

Source: IBM

The iPhone and iPad combined for the bulk of mobile shopping, while on the tablet side the iPad generated 88% of the traffic in its category. There's something very strange about the fact that iOS users generate much more internet traffic and mobile buying than their Android peers -- given that there are more Android users out there. 

There have been various attempts to explain this traffic and commerce discrepancy, chief among them the theory that Android owners are less sophisticated, affluent and engaged. While there's clearly some validity to this theory it doesn't entirely explain what's going on.