If the beginning of the holiday season is any indication, it could be a merry mobile Christmas for shoppers. For the first time, there's expected to be more people visiting retailers' web sites through their smartphones than on desktop computers or tablets during the first weekend of the holiday shopping season that begins on Thanksgiving Day.
Mobile traffic during the five-day start to what is typically the busiest shopping period of the year is expected to reach 56.9 per cent of total traffic, up from 48.5 per cent last year, according to IBM Watson.
And even though everyone who "window shops" on their phones isn't going to buy, mobile sales are jumping too. Mobile sales are expected to account for 36.1 per cent of online sales, up from 27 per cent last year, according to IBM Watson Trend.
The bumps in traffic and sales come as retailers try to make the mobile shopping experience easier by improving their mobile apps and adding coupons and other deals. Shoppers also have gotten more comfortable browsing retailers' web sites as smartphone screen sizes have gotten bigger, making it easier for them to see photos of the items they want to buy.
Digital wallets and apps that let shoppers store payment information are helping too. "It's very convenient," said Seth Reineke, 25, an insurance worker from Iowa City, Iowa, who plans to peruse Amazon's weekend deals from his phone.
"It allows me to keep track of time-sensitive sales without being tied to a computer or having to leave a holiday event or get-together." Overall spending this season is expected to be somewhat muted. The National Retail Federation, a trade group for storeowners, expects industry-wide sales to be up 3.7 per cent in November and December, less than the 4.1 per cent of last year's holiday season.
But online spending figures are stronger. Forrester predicts online sales will rise 11 per cent to USD 95 billion. And mobile sales are becoming a bigger piece of that pie. Forrester expects them to account for 35 per cent of e-commerce this year and 49 per cent in five years.
That compares to 29 per cent in 2014. Adobe, which measures 80 per cent of online sales from the top 100 U.S. retailers, predicts 40 to 45 per cent of all retail traffic during November and December will come from mobile devices, up from 37 per cent last year.
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Mobile sales are expected to total 20 to 25 per cent of total online sales, up from 16 per cent last year. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, expects that 75 percent of US traffic to its website will come from mobile devices this holiday shopping season.
That's up from 50 per cent two years ago. Likewise, eBay says it expects mobile sales during the holidays will be "significantly" higher than the 41 per cent mobile sales made up of total revenue in the third quarter.