Santa leaves, smart phone steps in: Mobile sales soar on Christmas Day

The presents may have been under the tree, but that doesn't mean the shopping is over: a report from IBM shows that Christmas Day brought one of the biggest mobile shopping days of the year.

Seth Wenig/AP
Robert Drayton uses his smart phone to help him find the right gifts and compare prices at Toys 'R' Us in New York.

After Santa left presents under the tree, tech-savvy shoppers turned to their smart phones and tablets to keep the gifts coming.

A report from IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark monitoring Christmas Day sales shows that mobile shopping and browsing made up 48 percent of all online traffic on December 25. This is the highest percent of shopping traffic that mobile devices have captured this holiday season, and is up 28.3 percent from 2012. When broken down between smart phones, tablets, and social media sites, the numbers also show that those browsing on the go tend to spend more with a tablet than a smart phone—especially when prompted by a Facebook friend or Pinterest board.

Overall, online shopping continues to make a bigger dent in holiday shopping than previous years. IBM reports that online sales on Christmas Day were up 16.5 percent from last year, and mobile sales made up for 29 percent of all online sales, which is up 40 percent from 2012.

Mobile shopping isn't all created equal, they found. When the researchers teased apart the mobile shopping data, they found that people were more likely to browse online sites with smart phones, but more likely to purchase when on a tablet. Tablets made for 19.4 percent of all purchases, more than twice as much as smart phones, with 9.3 percent of purchases. Those on tablets also spent more: the average purchase on a tablet was $95.61 per order, as opposed to an average of $85.11 per order on smart phones.

For context, smart phones accounted for 28 percent of all online traffic, and tablets made up 18.1 percent. 

Between iOS (Apple) and Android devices, Apple users were what really drove the online mobile shopping. iOS users were behind 23 percent of all online sales, while Android only accounted for 4.3 percent of all sales. iOS users also spent nearly double the amount of Android users, averaging $93.94 per sale versus $48.10 per sale.

This may seem surprising, considering that Android devices made up for 81 percent of all devices shipped in Q3 of 2013, while Apple only made up 12.9 percent. However, Apple customers tend to spend more on their phones: in the same quarter Apple made over 56 percent of the profit in the mobile device market. This translates to more buying power overall: Apple customers spend more on apps, are beginning to use their Apple devices for business, and continue to spend more money on retail shopping.

Outside of devices, social media drove major shopping traffic. IBM compared Facebook and Pinterest, two major online shopping referral sites. They found that Pinterest garnered more online sales dollars than Facebook ($86.63 per order versus $72.01), but Facebook created more separate purchases.

Though Facebook isn't known as a consumer website, while Pinterest has millions of boards dedicated to shopping and consumer goods, IBM says Facebook's social strategy may give it the edge: “Facebook referrals converted sales at nearly four times the rate of Pinterest referrals, perhaps indicating stronger confidence in network recommendations."

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