Mobile shoppers help drive online sales surge on Thanksgiving

Online shoppers satisfied their shopping cravings in between feasting on Thanksgiving, driving online retail sales up a hefty 39% compared to last year’s Turkey Day tally

What did U.S. consumers do in between servings of turkey, stuffing and pie? Surfed the web and shopped big. Online retail sales jumped 39.3% on Thanksgiving, compared to last year's single-day holiday total.

The online shopping feast continued the day after Thanksgiving, driving online sales up 24.3% on Black Friday compared to the same period last year, according to IBM.

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Mobile shoppers play a key role in the shopping surge. The number of online shoppers who used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site increased to 14.3% on Black Friday compared to 5.6% in 2010. In terms of money spent, IBM reports that mobile sales as a percentage of total online shopping sales climbed to 9.8% from 3.2% a year earlier. 

Apple users dominated the mobile shopping crowd: The iPhone and iPad ranked first and second for consumers shopping on mobile devices (5.4% and 4.8%, respectively), followed by Android in third place (4.1%). Collectively iPhone and iPad users accounted for 10.2% of all online retail traffic on Black Friday, IBM reports.

Shoppers using iPads also showed a tendency to pull the trigger more often than those using Android devices or other mobile devices to shop online. According to IBM's data, shoppers using an iPad led to more retail purchases more often per visit than other mobile devices, with conversion rates reaching 4.6% compared to 2.8% for overall mobile devices. (See also: Shoppers with iPads spend more)

"This year marked Thanksgiving's emergence as the first big spending day of the 2011 holiday season with a record number of consumers shifting their focus from turkey to tablets and the search for the best deals," said John Squire, chief strategy officer of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative, in a statement. "This momentum continued into Black Friday where the big winners were those retailers that delivered a smarter commerce experience with compelling, relevant deals that people could easily access from their channel of choice."

Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her e-mail address is

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