What do Cupid, Abraham Lincoln, and Saint Nick have in common? Other than the fact that they each are icons associated with a major holiday, finding a common thread might be tough -- until now.
The answer is that their holidays have provided a stage to show that a smarter form of commerce is not just taking shape, but is also here to stay: mobile commerce.
I have spent a great deal of time over the last three months dissecting the influence of the empowered consumer. Throughout that time, the conversation has focused primarily on the emergence of the mobile shopper.
Now, as we begin April, I am excited to report that mobile shopping hasn't receded. In fact, it remains a staple of the retail landscape, whether initiated with an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.
Recently, our team did some analyses of online shopping the week leading up to Valentine's Day as well as the days before President's Day.
Here's what we found:
In the week leading up to this holiday, IBM's online benchmark study found that 14.5 percent of all online sessions on a retailer's site were initiated from a mobile device. As for sales, 10.1 percent of all online sales for the week before Valentine's Day came through a mobile device.
If this sounds familiar, it should. These figures, for both traffic and sales, are almost identical to what we saw over the recent Christmas holiday, where traffic and sales were 14.6 percent and 11 percent, respectively. What this tells us is that the mobile shopping habits witnessed over the November and December holidays are not fleeting. They're actually quite the opposite. A permanent change is in effect, with the empowered consumer turning to mobile devices not just for blockbuster shopping days, but also for all holidays and shopping occasions in between.
For Valentine's Day, the influence of mobile commerce was perhaps most prevalent in several key verticals where sales were up dramatically from last year:
Jewelry and intimate apparel
A record number of consumers made impulse buys via their mobile devices, with mobile sales of jewelry and intimate apparel growing to 28.8 percent and 17.7 percent, respectively.
Health and beauty
Shoppers continued to demonstrate a desire to pamper their loved ones, with mobile sales of health and beauty items (lotions, fragrances, and more) growing to 15.1 percent, an increase from 2011's less than 4 percent.
Valentine's shoppers also showed a similar pattern when it came to device preferences. Apple's iPhone and iPad ranked one and two for mobile device retail traffic (5.5 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively). Android was third at 4.4 percent. Collectively, iPhone and iPad accounted for 10.4 percent of mobile device retail traffic.
To make sure Valentine's momentum wasn't just the work of Cupid and his love of mobile devices, we decided to take yet another look. This time we focused on President's Day weekend, and what we found further demonstrates "m-commerce's" coming of age. On President's Day weekend, mobile traffic and sales reached 17.3 percent and 11.9 percent on Saturday, 16.9 percent and 11.6 percent on Sunday, and 14.2 percent and 9.9 percent on the Monday holiday. These figures far exceed what we witnessed in 2011.
As was the case with Valentine's Day, there were also some tremendous industry performers. Here are some that stood out on President's Day Monday:
Mobile sales of apparel grew from 3.5 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2012.
Health and beauty
Mobile sales of health and beauty items surpassed what we saw over Valentine's Day, reaching 18.1 percent.
Mobile sales grew by more than 116 percent, reaching 12.2 percent in 2012.
It's exciting to see that the promise of mobile remains strong, and I cannot wait to see how it continues to influence both shoppers and retailers as we move forward. As for now, it's safe to say that holiday shopping, whether you are buying jewelry or items for the home, has changed for good.
John Squire is the director of digital marketing and analytics for IBM.
On Twitter? Follow John Squire at @IBMsmrtcommerce. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"Smart phone with credit card" image via Shutterstock.