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Tablets fuelled massive mobile Boxing Day sales, says IBM

The numbers of people choosing to bag Boxing Day bargains online using mobile devices has increased this year, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Over 40 per cent more customers chose to shop online via mobile on Boxing Day 2013, compared to the same day in 2012. Considering that according to the Office for National Statistics 72 per cent of UK adults now shop online, this figure sits comfortably with the current move towards a virtual high street.

However, IBM said that the findings are a warning that retailers should distinguish between customers using smartphones and those using tablets, since the study found that the devices are being used in different ways by consumers.

According to the figures, the majority of traffic to the 200 retail websites participating in the study came from mobile devices. Indeed, mobile traffic outstripped PC traffic for the first time ever, as consumers used their smartphones to browse websites before using their tablets to carry out the critical purchase.

58 per cent of all traffic to retail sites came from mobile devices, which represents a 42 per cent overall boost.

Meanwhile, sales via mobile gadgets exceeded 45 per cent of all online sales. This is an impressive figure in itself, but IBM is urging retailers to delve further into the specifics that make up that statistic. According to the tech giant, smartphones made up only 16 per cent of online sales, whilst tablets almost doubled that number by driving 29 per cent.

The average order value (AOV) from buyers using tablets was £83.55 while on mobile phones the AOV clocked in at £78.06.

"Mobile has rapidly become the dominant channel and now retailers really need to look at the role each device is going to play within the overall customer journey and decision-making process,” said James Lovell, IBM's smarter commerce retail solutions consultant for Europe.

“The key challenge will be how they maximise the effectiveness of these devices to help augment the in-store customer experience as well as the traditional digital only channels,” he added.

Interestingly, IBM’s study also found that iOS users were more likely to engage in online shopping than Android customers. In the Boxing Day deals bonanza, Apple users made up 42 per cent of all online traffic and 35 per cent of all online sales, whilst Android trailed behind with just 15 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.

The news sounds like a death toll for the ailing fortunes of face-to-face shopping, but before jumping on our high street horses, it's worth taking a closer look at whether online shopping can actually save the high street retail model, rather than kill it.