Cutting through the Cyber-Monday Hype

IBM, eBay, comScore and others have been pouring out data reflecting revenue gains over the weekend and on Monday for e-commerce and specifically mobile. In particular comScore says that Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in US history clearing $1.25 billion. PayPal said that it saw a 552% increase in mobile payment volume vs. last year and a nearly 400% (397%) increase in mobile shopping.

There are a range of other statistics that reinforce the fact that there was a great deal of shopping on mobile devices over the weekend and on Monday.  

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For example, IBM said the following about mobile shopping and mobile traffic over the weekend:

  • Mobile traffic increased to 14.3 percent  . . . compared to 5.6 percent in 2010
  • Sales on mobile devices surged to 9.8 percent from 3.2 percent year over year
  • Mobile shopping was led by Apple (iPhone + iPad) . . . Android came in third at 4.1 percent. Collectively iPhone and iPad accounted for 10.2 percent of all online retail traffic on Black Friday.
  • Shoppers using the iPad led to more retail purchases more often per visit than other mobile devices with conversion rates reaching 4.6 percent compared to 2.8 percent for overall mobile devices

IBM added on that on Cyber Monday mobile represented 7.7% of all online sales, up from 2.2% last year.

So what does all this mean exactly? As a basic matter, it means that people are using smartphones and tablets to shop for products and some are making purchases on them.

We need to ask several questions, however, before we can take the full measure of what happened:

  • Were mobile devices being used mostly in the home?
  • How much of the activity happened "on the go" and in stores? 
  • What percentage of people started with a mobile device and finished on a PC (and vice versa)? 
  • How many mobile purchases were made through mobile apps vs. the mobile web? 
  • What percentage of "mobile" purchases happened on the iPad vs. smartphones?
  • What percentage of mobile buying happened where the user had a stored credit card on file with the e-commerce site/app?   

Answering at least some of these questions will give us a better sense of what's really going on in terms of mobile behavior. Screen size, location, time and the immediacy of user needs are all variables that contribute to a larger consumer-behavior context. For example, a tablet (iPad) user at home is very different from a smartphone user in a store, and so on. 

While marketers and publishers can't address all these variables and nuances, they need to strive to better understand them to be effective and understand where mobile sits in the new cross-platform shopping paradigm.

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Source: Google-AdMob, March 2011; Nielsen Q1 2011