Greetings. I'm back from celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary on the high seas of the Gulf of Mexico.
Alas, due to my shipbound nature, I wasn't able to participate in the annual cyber holiday shopping extravaganza. Internet access on the high seas is both expensive and slow, and hey, this was a semi-vacation for me, so being online would have been too much like work.
I did make some local economic contributions in port, in both Progreso and Cozumel, by shopping with the local vendors and in the duty-free shops, so I can come out of the initial holiday shopping festivities without much guilt.
But if you missed the press coverage earlier in the week, I did want to share results from the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, part of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative and an excellent view into the behaviors and trends of holiday cyber shoppers.
For this year's "Cyber Monday," the average order value was $185.12 and shopping peaked at 11:25 a.m. ET. Department store sales online were up 43.1 percent over 2011.
The headline, of course, was the size of the market, with holiday shoppers turning the 2012 "Cyber Monday" into the biggest spending day ever, with growth coming in at 30.3 percent over the same period last year.
With an increase in online sales across multiple channels, the digital consumer took center stage.
Retailers, marketing departments, and chief marketing officers (CMOs) delivered a consistent customer experience across multiple channels from mobile devices, to online and to the show floor leading to the record shopping day.
Some of the other trends that were revealed:
- Shopping peaked at 11:25 a.m. ET: Consumers flocked online, with shopping momentum hitting its highest peak at 11:25 a.m. ET. As in 2011, consumer shopping also maintained strong momentum after commuting hours on both the east coast and west coast.
- Mobile shopping and mobile traffic increase: On Cyber Monday more than 18 percent of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2011. Mobile sales reached close to 13 percent, an increase of more than 96 percent over 2011.
- The iPad factor: The iPad continued to generate more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone, driving more than 7 percent of online shopping. This was followed by iPhone at 6.9 percent and Android at 4.5 percent. The iPad also continued to dominate tablet traffic, reaching a holiday high of 90.5 percent. Amazon Kindle leapt into second at 2.6 percent followed by the Samsung Galaxy at 2 percent and the Barnes and Noble Nook at 0.6 percent.
- Multiscreen shopping: Consumers shopped in stores, online, and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best bargains. Overall, 58.1 percent of consumers used smartphones compared to 41.9 percent who used tablets to surf for bargains on Cyber Monday.
- The savvy shopper: While consumers continued to spend more, they once again shopped with greater frequency to take advantage of retailer deals as well as free shipping. This led to a drop in average order value by 6.6 percent to $185.12. However, the average number of items per order increased 14.1 percent to 8.34 compared to Black Friday.
- Social sales: Shoppers referred from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube generated 0.41 percent of all online sales on Cyber Monday, a decrease of more than 26 percent from 2011.
Sales on mobile devices accounted for 12.9 percent of all Cyber Monday sales this year, with the iPad continuing to lead the tablet shopping pack at 90.5 percent share.
Here's what my colleage Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative, had to say about this year's Cyber Monday:
Cyber Monday was not only the pinnacle of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend but when the cash register closed it officially became the biggest online shopping day ever. Retailers that adopted a smarter marketing approach to commerce were able to adjust to the shifting shopping habits of their customers, whether in-store, online or via their mobile device of choice, and fully benefit from this day and the entire holiday weekend.
Cyber Monday sales growth was led by several industries, which include:
- Department stores continued to offer compelling deals and promotions that drove sales to grow by 43.1 percent over Cyber Monday 2011.
- Health and beauty sales increased 25.1 percent year-over-year with consumers once again choosing to pamper themselves this holiday.
- Home goods maintained its momentum this year, reporting a 26.8 percent increase in sales from Cyber Monday 2011.
- Apparel sales were also strong this holiday with Cyber Monday numbers showing an increase of 25.3 percent over 2011.
These trends were based on findings from the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, the industry's only cloud-based web analytics platform that tracks more than a million e-commerce transactions a day, analyzing terabytes of raw data from 500 retailers nationwide.
Analysis of public social media content came from the IBM Social Sentiment Index, an advanced analytics and natural language processing tool that analyzes large volumes of social media data to assess public opinions.
With this data, IBM helps CMOs better understand and respond to the needs of each individual customer, improving sourcing, inventory management, marketing, sales, and services programs.
So what does it all mean?
First of all, e-commerce is alive and well, with the 30+ percent increase in online sales suggesting more people than ever are not only comfortable with e-commerce, they're confident in the economy and willing to open up their pocketbooks, even as they aggressively looked for deals online and off.
The mobile juggernaut continues, with Apple enjoying the most notable e-shopping platform in the form of the iPad, but retailers have to continue to strive for synergy between the online and brick-and-mortar experience, as customers are still coming into stores, but only once they've first done research via their PCs or mobile devices. We are definitely in an age of the Informed Consumer.
Though the social referrals number may seem somewhat low, and despite the decrease in social referrals year over year, Facebook and other platforms continue to play a vital and instrumental role in providing word-of-mouth recommendations about products and services. Retailers ignore those social presences at their peril.
Apparel shopping online has moved increasingly into the mainstream, with more customers than ever comfortable with the idea of buying clothing and other apparel accessories "sight unseen."
And finally, and probably most importantly for retailers trying to understand consumer behavior in the grander scheme of things -- and as the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark itself observes -- there's a lot to be learned in the aggregate analysis of all these transactions.
Big-data is here, and it looks as though it's here to stay, particularly in the retail industry.
Whether it's trying to better understanding "day parts" (the time of day people were most active shopping online), or the device footprint (Have you created an enhanced experience for all those millions of iPad shoppers??), sifting through and analyzing all this cyber shopping data presents both challenge and opportunity, and those retail clients who synthesize, then optimize, their online shopping experiences based on these changing behaviors will be the ultimate holiday shopping season victors.