Smartphones Surpass Tablets for E-Commerce Sales (Jan. 7, 2016)
Smartphones accounted for 17 percent of online sales in the U.S. last year, beating out tablets, at 14 percent, according to the State of Retailing Online 2016, a widely cited annual report from Forrester Research Inc., Bizrate Insights and Shop.org, the e-commerce arm of the National Retail Federation trade group. This marks the first time in the history of the report that phones have beaten tablets for digital sales.
Smartphones also took home the trophy for online traffic, another first. Devices such as the iPhone and phones running Android operating systems accounted for 29 percent of online traffic in 2015. That compares with 15 percent for tablets. (The remaining traffic and sales come from laptop and desktop computers.) Overall, the growth in mobile sales reflect consumers’ increasing preference for the devices: Sales from smartphones jumped 53 percent year-over-year in 2015, while sales from tablets increased 32 percent, according to this first installment of this year’s report, commonly called SORO in e-commerce circles.
The report’s sales and traffic figures foreshadow retail and payment technology investments in the coming year. “Retailers are now recognizing that their customers may not need a bigger, more expansive shopping experiences on mobile platforms. They need a consistent, relevant and user-friendly experience that will shape their online and in-store shopping behaviors,” says NRF Senior Vice President and Shop.org Executive Director Vicki Cantrell. “Even with relatively small investments in their mobile initiatives, retailers are seeing tremendous growth in both sales that come from smartphones and the level of customer engagement from mobile across the brand.”
The report, based on surveys of 195 companies in September and October 2015, finds that a third of those retail respondents plan to boost their smartphone investments by more than 20 percent in 2016, with another 34 percent anticipating 1 to 20 percent increases this year. By comparison, 22 percent of respondents say their tablet investments this year will increase by more than 20 percent compared with 2015. Much of that overall mobile investment likely will go toward technology and marketing that enables consumers to use their devices inside stores to better inform purchases——for instance, via product comparisons or searching for online discounts or by taking part in retail loyalty programs.
“It’s the age of the customer and retailers need to be wherever shoppers are when they’re browsing and buying. It’s essential to provide value on those devices and in those moments, which are often in stores,” says Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. “While mobile phones still represent promise, savvy retailers will be leveraging mobile with their customers to positively influence in-store sales as well.”