Thanks to the Internet Christmas Day is Now for Shopping

By Peter Bernstein December 26, 2013

Despite the fact that almost all retailers in the U.S. closed their physical stores on Christmas Day, it turns out that thanks to the Internet this did not stop many Americans from engaging in what is the true national pastime at this time of the year, SHOPPING.  It is up to you as to whether you think this is a good or bad thing.  As the saying goes, “Like it or not, it is what it is.”

A few weeks back I wrote and item on the pre-holiday shopping results published by IBM Digital Analytics who does a masterful job of tracking in real-time transactional activity of over 800 retailers.  I was curious to check back in to see what happened in the last several weeks.  As has been widely reported in-store sales at most retailers were soft. And, while final numbers are not in, it appears that thanks in large part to e-commerce, including many stores implementing “ship-from-store” (order online and pick up at your local outlet) capabilities, overall U.S. retail sales will be up a bit south of 3 percent over last year which was not a great one.  

What caught my eye in looking at the numbers was that it seems once all of those smart devices were unwrapped and activated certainly many were put to immediate use by their proud owners in the form of going on line to pick up some bargains. After all, as we all know the Internet never closes.

Based on the shorter shopping season this year, bad weather in many parts of the country, along with the usual desire to not have inventory to count at the end of this year and to please shareholders, many major retailers made it known on Christmas Day that there were post-Christmas bargains to be had for those who might be online and interested.

In fact, retailers are trying mightily with discounts and other types of persuasion to get people who got gift cards to redeem them before Midnight December 31. We have already seen this year that retailers despite push back about compromising family values opened their physical stores of Thanksgiving, and it appears the practice will be expanded next year and Christmas Day as a day of shopping rest, both physically and already virtually is no long sacrosanct.  The IBM results show why.

Christmas Day online shopping trends

Here are the online shopping trends IBM saw on Christmas Day as overall online sales were up 16.5 percent over the same period last year.   Some of the drivers are more than food for thought and include:

  • Mobile Traffic and Sales: Mobile traffic was the highest IBM has seen over this holiday season, accounting for 48 percent of all online traffic, up 28.3 percent compared to the same period last year. Mobile sales also remained strong, approaching 29 percent of all online sales, up 40 percent over 2012. 
  • Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy: Smartphones drove 28.5 percent of all online traffic compared to tablets at 18.1 percent, making it the browsing device of choice.  When it comes to making the sale, tablets drove 19.4 percent of all online sales, more than twice that of smartphones, which accounted for 9.3 percent.  Tablet users also averaged $95.61 per order, versus smartphone users, who averaged $85.11 per order.
  • iOS vs. Android: As a percentage of total online sales, iOS was more than five times higher than Android, driving 23 percent vs. 4.6 percent for Android. On average, iOS users spent $93.94 per order, nearly twice that of Android users, who spent $48.10 per order.  iOS also led as a component of overall traffic with 32.6 percent vs. 14.8 percent for Android.
  • The Social Influence - Facebook vs. Pinterest: Shoppers referred from Facebook averaged $72.01 per order, versus Pinterest referrals, which drove $86.83 per order.  However, Facebook referrals converted sales at nearly four times the rate of Pinterest referrals, perhaps indicating stronger confidence in network recommendations.

For those interested in getting real-time data alerts generated by the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark you can visit them at, or follow the hashtag #SmarterCommerce.

In my previous posting I said I was expecting people to take a breather from shopping.  I certainly had no idea that Christmas Day itself would see so much activity.  Clearly, both retailers and consumers are willing to hold their breath until after the New Year.  It does seem sad that shopping on days where one would have hoped/thought there would be time off from commerce is emerging as a new form of family tradition.  Just because we can does not mean we should.  And, the Bible tells us that even God once he determined things were good had a day of rest once he was through creating everything. 

If all of this encroachment and enticement has not spiced things up by year’s end, the steepness of discounting on Happy New Year’s could be fantastic.  This could be the time to hurry up and wait!

Happy New Year’s to everyone!

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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