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Thanksgiving Digest (IBM E-Commerce Edition): Mobile 43% Of All Traffic, Over 25% Of All Online Sales

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For many years, Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — marked the start of the holiday shopping rush. But with many (not all) physical stores closed on Thanksgiving, a window of opportunity has emerged for e-commerce sites to push out offers and start selling a day earlier. That has proven to be big business: online sales in the U.S. this Thanksgiving were up nearly 20% (19.7%) on 2012, with an especially strong push from mobile devices, which accounted for over one-quarter (25.8%) of all sales on the day and nearly half of all e-commerce traffic.

The data, from IBM’s Benchmark real-time reporting unit, covers some 800 online retailers and millions of transactions. (Look here for a progress report on how the day developed yesterday, and today IBM is releasing the final, summary figures.)

IBM doesn’t provide sales in gross dollar amounts — just in terms of growth over last year and average basket size. Forrester Research, however, predicts that overall sales this holiday season will reach $78.7 billion, up 15% over 2012, when sales were $68.4 billion, with 167 million shoppers holiday shopping online and spending an average of $472.

Although sales started out slowly yesterday, IBM says that they “skyrocketed” around 8pm Eastern time — coinciding with some brick-and-mortar stores opening for business. But as overall sales grew, the average value of orders declined, settling at $127.59, some $5 less than last year. Both the declining orders, and the jump in traffic, make some sense: they are both based on competition for consumers, and therefore lower prices for everyone.

Along with that, even those who operate brick and mortar stores are seeing logic in pushing deals online. IBM says that department stores’ online sales grew 60% this year over 2012, with mobile up 44%.

Some other noteworthy data:

— Mobile is nearing half of all e-commerce traffic on Thanksgiving. In all it accounted for 42.6% of all traffic, and nearly 26% of all sales — up 49% on 2012. As IBM noted yesterday, tablets see the most actual purchases — 16.5% of all online sales — while smartphones accounted for 9%. Those buying on tablets, with an average of $126.49 per order, are nearly on par with average basket size overall. (Smartphones are at $110 per order, fairly impressive considering that you are browsing on a small screen.) iOS ended up accounting for over one-fifth (21%) of all sales, and $121.61 per order. Android accounted for only 4.6% of sales — a testament to why Apple and iOS will have staying power for a while with big brands and retailers, and consumers, regardless of how their bigger market share looks globally.

— Yesterday Facebook and Pinterest emerged as the two frontrunners in terms of social networks leading online sales referrals in IBM’s data. In the end, Facebook won out, averaging $105.97 per order, versus Pinterest at $103.05 per order.

— New York was the biggest online sales market on Thanksgiving. Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. followed.

— PayPal also noted growth in mobile payments volumes on its platform for the day — up 114.7% over Thanksgiving 2012, with a 91% increase in consumers shopping through PayPal mobile compared to Thanksgiving 2012. It doesn’t break out what percentages of overall sales, or actual gross value of the transactions.

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