Black Friday shopping: Smartphones overtake desktop visits

Consumers are window-shopping on smartphones more than desktops. Purchases from mobile devices are expected to account for a little more than one third of online sales.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Tashalee Rodriguez, of Boston, uses a smartphone app while shopping at Macy's in downtown Boston on Nov. 23, 2015. For the first time, analysts predict more than half of online traffic to retailer sites will come from smartphones than desktops during the busy Black Friday holiday shopping weekend. And though it’s still a small fraction of online revenue, mobile sales are jumping too. Larger phone sizes, improved retailer apps, more online deals and shoppers’ increasing comfort with shopping online are driving the trend.

More people will visit online retailers on their smartphones than on desktop computers or tablets over the first weekend of holiday shopping season – a first for the increasingly cyber season of giving.

During those five days, which kicks off Thanksgiving Day and is the busiest stretch in retail every year, mobile traffic is predicted to account for 56.9 percent of total online retail visits, a sizeable rise from the 48.5 percent counted last year, according to IBM Watson.

Though mobile visitors are mostly perusing, people are clicking “Buy” at a higher rate on their cellphones, too. Mobile sales are expected to account for a little more than a third of online sales, up from 27 percent last year, based on data from IBM Watson Trend.

“Now shopping happens in micro-moments in between everything else,” Google writes in a roundup of holiday shopping predictions.

Predictably, those micro-moments of small-screen swiping are changing the way retailers present and sell products to customers. Digital payment options, retail apps, and web-exclusive discounts are on the rise.

Tamara Gaffney, director of Adobe Digital Index, calls the proliferation of mobile an “opportunity to do 'shopping under the table' on Thanksgiving Day," she says.

"In between cooking, watching football and in general hanging around family and friends, there's down time to glance at the iPad and smartphone and do some shopping."

That sort of behavior tracks with Google data, which shows mobile shopping is 18 percent higher on Sundays, on average, than any other day of the week.

By tracking 80 percent of online sales from the top 100 U.S. retailers, Adobe projects that 40 to 45 percent of all retail traffic during November and December will come from mobile devices, an increase of roughly 8 percent over last year. Mobile sales are expected to total 20 to 25 percent of total online sales, up from 16 percent in 2014.

Overall spending this US holiday season is predicted to be relatively meager in terms of growth. The National Retail Federation, a trade group for American stores, expects industry-wide sales to be up 3.7 percent in November and December, less than the 4.1 percent seen during last year's season.

Online spending figures track higher, however. Forrester expects an 11 percent uptick in online sales totaling $95 billion, with mobile sales taking up a larger portion of that sum. Forrester expects mobile to account for 35 percent of e-commerce this year and 49 percent in five years, compared to 29 percent in 2014.

"It's very convenient," said Seth Reineke, 25, an insurance worker from Iowa City, Iowa, who plans to shop Amazon's weekend deals from his phone, to The Associated Press. "It allows me to keep track of time-sensitive sales without being tied to a computer or having to leave a holiday event or get-together."

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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