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How shoppers bought, delivered and returned out of hours this Christmas

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It’s clear that consumers have been buying through a variety of sales channels over this Christmas period. And it’s also becoming clear that they are buying, delivering and returning items at more unorthodox times than in years gone by.

Commerce platform provider IBM measured Boxing Day sales among the more than 200 UK websites it supports and found a 40.4% boost to online sales on a day when most shops continue to be closed, compared to the same time last year.

Most traffic (58%) on the day was from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, while more than 45% of sales were via mobile devices, and were 63% up on the same day last year. Some 29.9% of all traffic came from smartphones, while 28% was from tablets. But tablet users were more likely to buy – they drove 29.4% of online sales, spending an average of £83.55, while smartphone users drove 15.8% of sales, spending £78.06, on average.

Apple devices led the way: iOS operating systems were behind 41.8% of all online traffic, according to IBM, and 34.7% of online sales, which averaged £82.33 in value. Android generated 15.1% of online traffic and 9.8% of sales, on average worth £78.93.

James Lovell, Smarter Commerce retail solutions consultant, Europe at IBM, said: “This is the first time that traffic on mobile devices has outstripped the PC. Mobile has rapidly become the dominant channel and now retailers really need to look at the role that each device is going to play within the overall customer journey and decision making process.

“The key challenge will be how they maximise the effectiveness of these devices to help augment the in-store customer experience as well as the traditional digital only channels.”

CollectPlus, which has pioneered convenience store collection, found that delivery and returns also moved beyond traditional store opening hours. It said the last parcel collection of Christmas was recorded at 23.59 on Christmas Eve, and that the first return took place at 01.12am on Christmas Day, when someone took an unwanted present to an international supermarket in Birmingham. Meanwhile, shortly after midnight on Christmas Day, one customer dropped off a parcel at the BP station in Morecambe, Lancashire, for delivery on Christmas morning.

Neil Ashworth, chief executive of CollectPlus, said: “The late collection and early returns times we’ve seen over the last few days are yet another example of how consumers are increasingly making the most of being able to choose when and where they want to take receipt of their online Christmas purchases – and then return them if necessary.

“The early return on Christmas morning is perhaps a sign that people are already sending back unwanted gifts before heading back to their favourite online stores for the January Sales which are now in full swing. We believe the trend for customers returning unwanted items in large numbers post-Christmas will continue, and peak during this New Year sale period, and through to the end of January.”

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