Mobile Shift Drives Father’s Day Sales, IBM Says

Father’s Day spending was up a healthy 14 percent the week before Dad’s big day, with mobile traffic up 26 percent year-over-year, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. 

On Father’s Day itself, mobile traffic accounted for more than 38 percent of all online traffic, while mobile sales were up more than 37 percent, accounting for close to 19 percent of all online sales.

The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark platform tracks millions of transactions and analyzes terabytes of raw data from approximately 800 retail sites nationwide that are customers of IBM ExperienceOne, a cloud-based set of tools for online customer engagement and analytics.

The increase is due to three factors, according to Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce. First, mobile devices continue to improve, with larger screens and more functionality. Second, consumer adoption of mobile continues to grow, while tablet adoption has skyrocketed. Finally, retailers are getting their mobile acts together and optimizing their online experiences for different for factors.

One indicator of the growing proficiency of retailers is a surge in online sales by department stores, which grew by 31 percent over the same period last year, with mobile sales growing by 29 percent year-over-year.

As a percentage of total online sales, sales via iOS were almost four and a half times higher than those via Android, driving 15 percent of all sales versus 3 percent for Android. iOS users spent more, too, averaging $103.85 per order compared to $73.08 for Android users, a difference of 42 percent. And, even though penetration for the two mobile operating systems is close to par, iOS contributed 26 percent of overall traffic, compared to 12 percent for Android.

“This is one of the more astonishing numbers we report on,” Henderson says. “It’s reflective of a few things. iPhone users tend to be slightly more affluent, more comfortable with technology and purchasing online,” he says. On the other hand, many people who get Android phones got them free with their contracts. “And the great experience that Apple has designed facilitates the shopping experience.”

Still, smartphones browse and tablets buy, according to IBM’s data. Smartphones drove 24.8 percent of all online traffic compared to tablets at 12.8 percent, while tablets drove 12.2 percent of all online sales, compared to 6.4 percent for phones. Tablet users also averaged $106.71 per order, versus smartphone users, who averaged $89.55 per order.

While smartphones and tablets tend to be lumped together in analyses like this, Henderson notes that laptops and tablets are starting to converge, as new laptops ship with touchscreens and many former laptop users now use tablets instead. “But the size and form factor are radically different, and the usage patterns are different,” Henderson says.

This has big implications for how retailers need to design interactions for phones and tablets, especially when users are trying to enter credit card and shipping information with their fingers instead of a keyboard, according to Henderson.

Facebook and Pinterest were both strong drivers of sales this Father’s Day, although in different ways. Orders referred from Pinterest had higher average values, at $142.75 per order, compared to an average order of $99.43 from Facebook referrals. However, Facebook referrals converted to sales at a rate more than four times that of Pinterest referrals.

This data includes both organic and paid traffic from Facebook. “The fact that they can boost conversion rate by offering retargeting ad campaigns certainly has an effect in terms of a higher conversion rate,” Henderson says, and a lot of it is dominated by paid advertisers and promoted posts. IBM doesn’t have data suggesting whether the recent algorithm change that resulted in fewer brand posts showing up in organic news feeds has influenced referrals or conversions.

Mom still got over on Dad, though, when it comes to spending on gifts. IBM says more dollars were spent on Mom than on Dad: The average order value for Mother’s Day was $125.23, 5 percent higher than the Father’s Day average order value, which was $119.37.

IBM is projecting that more than 40 percent of all traffic for the 2014 holiday season will come from tablets and smartphones. “This helps illustrate the dramatic shift in consumer behavior,” Henderson says. “Retailers need to focus around the experience they’re creating for smartphones and tablets.”

Bringing the mobile and online experience into physical stores will be a trend for the 2014 holiday season, Henderson adds. Technologies like microlocation and iBeacons, combined with push notifications, are, he says, “starting to create some unique opportunities for brands to interact with customer while in the store.”

Image via Shutterstock.

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