When we look back on the holiday shopping season in 2012, we’ll see that mobile platforms are increasingly becoming a viable way for consumers to shop. There’s already an abundance of data that supports this from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to a report from IBM, Cyber Monday saw an increase of 70% in mobile sales. The iPad represented 7% of all online sales and completely dominated competing devices by producing 90.5% of all tablet e-commerce sales. 24% of Black Friday retail traffic came from mobile devices up from 14% in 2011 and less than 1% in 2009. The trend is clear and it’s not reversing. What’s leading to this shift in user behavior?

  1. Mass adoption of smartphones and tablets. Apple has sold 100 million iPads in less than three years. There are 1 billion smartphone users globally. The growth rate of smartphone and tablet adoption is far surpassing that of other platforms/devices. This is both across device purchases and usage. In two years, mobile internet use has grown >300% and represents 13% of global traffic. Mobile commerce is merely a subset of this macro trend.
  2. Improved mobile shopping experiences. As a result of the above and their own internal data, e-commerce companies have realized that they need mobile optimized websites and dedicated native apps across platforms. Companies like Branding Brand and Revel Touch are rapidly growing to accommodate the demand from traditional e-commerce companies who don’t have mobile design expertise in-house. “E-Commerce 2.0” companies like Fab, Gilt and One Kings Lane are increasingly taking a mobile first approach and thinking about mobile platforms ahead of the web. Fab anticipates that they’ll see 50% of sales from mobile next year. Companies that have built mobile-optimized and/or native app experiences are seeing higher conversion rates and increased adoption of using mobile devices as part of normal buying behavior.
  3. The advent of “couch commerce.” This is less quantifiable than the above, but it’s an anecdotal observation that you’ll be hard-pressed to deny. People shop on their desktops/laptops while at work to procrastinate. When they get home, they’re increasingly sitting on the couch, watching TV and on their smartphone or tablet answering emails, playing games and, of course, shopping. You’ve done this. I’ve done this. I think this behavior will continue to increase and #1 and #2 will be gasoline on the fire.

It seems clear that as Apple and the bevy of Android manufacturers continue to churn out high-quality mobile devices, consumers will increasingly discover new things to buy on the go or while relaxing at home using these emerging platforms. The companies that have built best of breed UX on mobile and who are able to acquire and retain customers efficiently will reap the benefits of this behavioral shift.