Online spending growth shows mobile phones are the new mall

By Megan Cerullo

/ MoneyWatch

Companies aim to deliver online sales faster

Consumers are increasingly partial to deals that appear under their very thumbs. Since November 1, 58% of all traffic to retail websites has come from smartphones, up from 51% a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics.

Shoppers aren't just browsing on their phones — they're clicking "buy" in record numbers. Some 36% of all online sales this year have come from smartphones, the research firm found, a jump from 31% in 2018. For retailers, such data points underscore a trend within a trend: the emerging importance of mobile commerce amid the ongoing tidal shift toward ecommerce.

Consumers "are clearly more comfortable buying products large and small through their phones," said John Copeland, vice president of marketing and customer insights ad Adobe Analytics, which tracks online spending. As a result, merchants "are really taking a cue in terms of making the customer journey on the phone easier," he added.

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A key factor easing the trip: the growing popularity of mobile payment systems such as Apple Pay.

"People are getting more comfortable using Apple Pay or a mobile wallet, and that's really the confluence of people's increased comfort with payment devices, but also retailers optimizing journeys on mobile devices," Copeland said. "It's a lot easier to shop on your mobile phone in a format that has been formatted specifically for your phone, not a desktop image being crammed onto your phone screen."

Over 160 million people expected to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday

To be sure, Americans aren't ditching retail stores altogether. Analysts who surveyed stores and malls on Black Friday said foot traffic was healthy, with many shoppers seemingly happy to participate in what has become an annual holiday tradition.

"The stores obviously still matter," Moody's analyst Charlie O'Shea said. "Brick-and-mortar retailers are still finding ways to get people to come to stores."

Some consumers still prefer to purchase pricier items in-store. "They want it now, and for higher-end stuff they really want to see it first, and then get it home right away," he said.

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Mobile shopping could reach a key threshold on Christmas Day, when Adobe expects smartphone-based purchases to surpass desktop spending for the first time. Adobe forecasts $1.1 billion dollars in online sales on December 25, with 47% of those purchases on Christmas Day made via a smartphone, compared to 46% on desktops and 7% on tablets.

"This will be a significant inflection point that we've been looking forward to for sometime. We are finally crossing over," said Jason Woosley, vice president of commerce at Adobe.

First published on December 2, 2019 / 5:55 PM

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