Cellum Insights

Holiday shopping data show mobile quickly becoming main course of e-commerce feast

Like the American Thanksgiving holiday it follows, “Cyber Monday” is beginning to develop its own traditions. Among them are an annual rush to collect, distribute and analyze sales data from the big day, which was created in 2005 as an online version of the more established “Black Friday” retailing bonanza, which falls three days earlier. Another, more recent ritual is to pause and reflect on (or to gloat over) the growing share of e-commerce sales over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period initiated and completed from mobile devices.

With sales from mobile devices for the first time topping $1 billion on both Black Friday and on Cyber Monday, the role of mobile devices in e-commerce is now impossible to ignore. In fact, this role is now so important that it may soon be time to end the tradition of talking about the “mobile” part of e-commerce like it is some kind of tasty side dish in the big banquet of e-commerce, and instead just treat it as the main course.

Needless to say, mobile is not quite yet on par with desktop in terms of overall share, averaging roughly a third of online sales on Black Friday and on Cyber Monday. And many consumers do remain resistant. But just as the overall share of e-commerce in retail may be significantly underestimated by some key official scorekeepers like the US Census Department, it is possible that current data aren’t fully capturing the growing role of mobile, most obviously in larger purchases that begin on mobile devices and are completed on desktops or in person.

Either way, the key for retailers is to learn from other sectors which became “mobile first” before firms fully figured out how to serve mobile users. Probably the starkest of such examples is the newspaper business, which treated mobile as something of a curiosity until one day mobile devices constituted the majority of visits to news websites – and consumers started treating newspapers as curiosities.

If such an analogy is sobering, that’s the point – any retailer that isn’t 100% confident in its mobile strategy, not least its mobile payment strategy – should be sobered. And of course the oldest holiday tradition of all is to eventually end the feast, sober up and get back to work.