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How is the way we shop changing this Christmas?

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It’s fast becoming clear that this has been a record year for online retailers. Ecommerce sales grew by 20%, year-on-year, in November, according to IMRG figures out earlier this month, and while Barclaycard reports today that sales on Mega Monday (December 3) rose by 9.4% and, perhaps more significantly, accounted for almost 30% of all retail spending that day.

But what’s also fast becoming clear is that how we spend is also evolving before our eyes.

Shop Direct today announced that mobile has already beaten its expectations, with smartphone and tablet traffic to its six transactional sites, which include Very.co.uk, Littlewoods.com and isme.com, outstripping visits from laptops and desktops.


In the six weeks to Saturday December 7, mobile visits averaged 50.4%. That meant visits from tablets were up by 120%, compared to the same time last year, while traffic from smartphones was 105.2% ahead.

“We all knew that this Christmas would be massive for mobile but all signs indicate that it’s going to smash our early expectations,” said Gareth Jones, group retail and strategy director at Shop Direct.

“To have topped 50% of traffic from mobile before we got into the peak weeks of December highlights the increasing power of these devices and of shoppers in dictating the retail agenda.

“We haven’t actively pushed customers onto mobile – they’ve aadopted these devices willingly for their convenience and ease of use.”

He detected a real shift in customer behaviour, with big growth in traffic between 6am and 12pm, as shoppers browse on their way into work before transacting in the afternoons and evenings. While Black Friday played a significant part in mobile growth, he said, there was no sign of traffic levels falling since then.

“Where this goes next Christmas,” added Jones, “with wearable technology and other new innovations coming down the track, will be fascinating to see.”

The evidence of a strong uplift to mobile sales chimes with eBay/Conlumino research out earlier this week, which suggests that the rise in tablet ownership is fuelling higher levels of online shopping. Some 60% of those questioned in the study say they will shop more thanks to the use of tablets, while more than 80% of tablet owners use them to make purchases. More than 60% use them to browse, and 43% to comparison buy. The emergence of smaller tablets in particular – and 60% of tablets bought on eBay in the last three months have been smaller ones – means people are more likely to shop on the go, it suggests.

The biggest share of the Christmas shopping budget, it found, still goes to shop (66%), but tablets follow with 25% of the budget, more than desktops and laptops combined. eBay’s own figures show customers who shop via tablet and via another device typically spend twice as much with it as those buying via a desktop.

“Shoppers want convenience, speed and choice – they want to shop anytime, anywhere, on any device – they want to shop anytime, anywhere, on any device and we’re really seeing this in the run up to the festive period,” said Olivier Ropars, senior director of m-commerce, eBay Europe .

“However mobile shopping isn’t just for Christmas, it’s here to stay. Therefore in the New Year it’s crucial for retailers to think about their virtual shop window and what that looks like from a smartphone or increasingly, a tablet.”

Analysis from logistics business DHL Supply Chain showed mobile was also a factor for its customer Debenhams . The department store’s mobile sales, it said, were about 40% up on the same time last year. DHL runs Debenhams bricks and mortar and ecommerce fulfillment operations from warehouses and distribution centres in Sherburn and Peterborough. It says average online demand for the department stores wares is up by 250% on average in the run up to Christmas, rising by 300% at peak times.

Rising volumes of mobile shopping are also fuelling growth in social shopping this Christmas, according to Facebook , which says its research shows 12% have bought a gift this Christmas after seeing it in their news feed.

In particular, mums, responsible for 84% of present-buying in the run up to Christmas, are spending three times as long on Facebook mobile. However, their work is nearly over, it seems. For while 19% of men will still be shopping on Christmas Eve, only 8% of women will be doing so, according to Facebook.

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