Mobile Sales Propel Holiday Shopping as Overall Black Friday Sales See Minor Downturn

Consumer data from the Black Friday weekend is already in, and a major shift towards mobile shopping helped boost holiday sales in what has been a disappointing season for retailers.

According to Newsweek, IBM said that a whopping 36% of online sales this Black Friday came from mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. For the first time in Black Friday history, more than half of all shopping-related traffic came from these devices, registering at 57.2%.

The results aren’t particularly surprising considering how prominent mobile devices have become, but they were not expected to have such a substantial impact on holiday shopping in general. Smartphone purchases, specifically, were through the roof on Black Friday, accounting for 57% of all mobile sales, nearly twice as much as last year.

For the sake of comparison, only 3.2% of Black Friday sales in 2010 came from mobile devices. This drastic increase in usage was preceded by a rush from major retailers to optimize their website for mobile sales, allowing consumers to make purchases directly from their smartphone without having to switch devices.

Industry estimates show that about 51% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a mobile-optimized site because of the added convenience. Since local searches are usually performed through smartphones, many companies have ramped up efforts to simplify their user interface on mobile devices.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the increase in mobile shopping has been countered by a general decline of in-store purchases. Americans spent an estimated $12.1 billion over Thanksgiving and Black Friday this year, marking a considerable decrease from last year.

“We are done Christmas shopping. We bought online,” said Albert Calderon, a police officer who was asked about his Black Friday shopping habits.

Experts tend to agree with Calderon, and the gradual shift towards mobile shopping is now undeniable. Matthew Shay, President of the National Retail Federation, believes that change is a good thing, and in-store Black Friday sales should stay relatively strong despite the popularity of smartphones and tablets.

“It is clear that the age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities,” said Shay.

Retailers who have not yet invested in mobile optimization would be wise to do so before they’re surpassed by the competition. Mobile wallets like Apple Pay and PayPal One Touch are becoming the new go-to option for consumers looking for speedy transactions, and more stores are beginning to make such technology available for their customers.

Consumers should expect to see an even stronger focus on mobile shopping next year, though it’s safe to say that hoards of crazed shoppers will still be filing into brick-and-mortar stores in 2016.

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