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Datacember 4: Consumers are choosy about devices when holiday shopping

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Datacember keeps its promises.

After picking through the leftover data of the Thanksgiving weekend earlier this week, we said we’d next take a look at not just how many people bought and when, but on what device.

It’s a critical issue for retailers who need to understand where their customers are coming from — so to speak — in order to tailor offers, design mobile strategies and figure out where to spend money to attract and then keep customers.

And it turns out there were definite daily shopping patterns over the long holiday weekend. Most noticeable were the contrasting preferences of consumers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. And Cyber Monday had it’s own distinctive flair when it came to device of choice, all of which we will get to.

Key takeaways

    Consumers lean more heavily on mobile during some holiday shopping days than others. Retailers should pay attention in order to provide the most effective promotions and to better understand what sort of experience customers are looking for at any given time.

Mobile is again a headliner in the story of early holiday shopping. Mobile has been a huge story for years, but one that confounds retailers trying to maximize the device’s potential. Its importance tends to be magnified during the holiday season, perhaps because consumers feel more time constrained or perhaps because everything seems more magnified during the holiday season.

This year mobile is again bursting out of the gate, setting records and showing every sign that it is the future of digital commerce.

But interestingly enough, when it came to the percentage of sales booked on mobile, Black Friday came in second over the Thanksgiving weekend. The winner, as you can see below, was Thanksgiving Day itself.

Graph showing conversions by device over the Thanksgiving weekend

Mobile accounted for 44 percent of conversions on Thanksgiving — 31 percent on smartphones and another 13 percent on tablets.

On Black Friday, that billion-dollar mobile day, only 36 percent of conversion were made on mobile devices — 25 percent on smartphones and 11 percent on tablets. On Cyber Monday, mobile accounted for only 31 percent of conversions — 22 percent on smartphones and 9 percent on tablet.

It’s important to note, of course, that as digital shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are much bigger days than Thanksgiving, which only recently started coming into its own as a significant shopping day.

And it is definitely riding the mobile gravy (and mashed potatoes?) train. Last year, for instance, mobile accounted for only 34.5 percent of conversions on Thanksgiving, according to BloomReach data, 22 percent of that being on smartphones.

So what’s behind consumers’ device preferences on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday — the first big three shopping days of the holiday season? Datacember is not past speculating.

Start with Thanksgiving. Sure it’s a day off for many, but there are still commitments. It’s a day for visiting relatives. A rare day for some, when the whole family — and more — sit down to eat dinner at the same time.

There are hours of football on television, of passing interest to some and of no interest to others. And so what do people do between conversations and after dinner and at halftime or during commercials? Shop and buy.

Black Friday is a different animal. Black Friday traditionally has meant: Hit the stores. That appears to be fading and the day is becoming a laboratory for omnichannel shopping. Datacember pointed out earlier this week that Black Friday online buying peaks in the morning, falls off, and then has another surge in the evening.

It sounds like the morning is for researching and buying items (perhaps can’t-miss promotions); midday is for hitting the malls for buying and showrooming and evening is for shoppers returning to digital sites to buy what they couldn’t find or what they couldn’t find at the price they wanted.

Is it just us, or does that sound like a day more attuned to shopping on a laptop or desktop?

And what’s with Cyber Monday coming in with 69 percent of conversions on desktop? Well, its roots are in the desktop. Remember the original Black Friday notion was that online sales took off on the Monday after Thanksgiving, when workers returned to the office — and the high-speed internet connections they lacked at home.

Of course, Datacember has demonstrated how that behavior seems to have shifted as residential internet speeds have raced ahead. And yet, could it be that old habits die hard and consumers head for the laptop or desktop at home?

Possible. But maybe more likely is the notion that by the evening of Cyber Monday consumers are ready to buy. After a weekend of researching and contemplating, they know what they want and where they want it from.

In fact, if we look at the BloomReach Browse vs. Buy Index for Thanksgiving week, it’s clear that on Cyber Monday, consumers showed the greatest intent to buy. The index compares the number of products viewed per conversion. Anything under the red line indicates shoppers were looking at fewer products for each conversion — indicating buying, not browsing behavior.

Chart of Product views vs. conversions

 

And so given that strong intent, why not go to the laptop, which despite improvements in mobile, still seems a more nimble shopping tool than the trusty smartphone?

After all, despite all the attention that mobile grabs, the desktop (which is actually probably more “the laptop”) remains holiday buying’s workhorse — for now. We’ll check back in on this trend later in Datacember.

Photo by Mike Cassidy. Chart source: BloomReach.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.