Mobile isn't just changing how we shop, it's changing who is shopping
Retail sales increased 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012 over year-ago totals, according to data issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau. Retail's rebound coincides with the continued growth of mobile commerce: IBM reports that online buying increased 6 percent in March, with sales originating on mobile devices now representing 13.3 percent of all online purchases, up from 7 percent just a year ago. IBM adds that 17.1 percent of all sessions on retailer sites are now initiated on mobile devices, increasing from 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2011; Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone drives 6.5 percent of mobile retail traffic, followed by Android-based devices at 5.9 percent and Apple's iPad tablet at 5.3 percent.
The IBM report follows a recent Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project forecast that mobile payments could eliminate the need for consumers to carry cash and credit cards by the year 2020. Sixty-five percent of the technology experts surveyed by Pew agree that within the next eight years, most consumers will fully trust and embrace smart devices and mobile wallet services to fund digital and in-store purchases, with cash and credit cards essentially disappearing in advanced nations. If that sounds like crazy talk, consider that Square--which only launched two years ago this month--is already processing mobile transactions at an annualized rate of $5 billion.
But mobile isn't only changing how we shop; it's also changing who is shopping (or at least challenging long-held perceptions). Digital performance agency iProspect reports that 40 percent of so-called "affluent males"--men ages 18 and older with an annual household income in excess of $100,000--shop online at least twice a week. There are roughly 19 million of these deep-pocketed dudes across the Internet, and those who go shopping multiple times each week spend more than $30,000 a year; 84 percent of respondents indicate they're shopping for themselves, not others, with a focus on the travel, apparel and automotive categories. "The old adage that men hate to shop is being upended by the digital experience," said iProspect CEO Robert Murray. "Not only are affluent men shopping online more, but this demographic is doing extensive research, shopping and then purchasing online, which provides advertisers with multiple touch points to reach him."
While most affluent males are still shopping on PCs, a growing number are buying and researching prospective purchases on mobile devices. Seventy-seven percent of iProspect respondents own a smartphone, and almost 100 percent use those phones daily--moreover, 50 percent own a tablet and 85 percent access them every day. iProspect adds that affluent males with daily tablet access are 32 percent more likely to have completed a purchase via the device. In that respect, affluent guys are no different from other consumers: iPad shopper conversion rates are 1.5 percent, compared to 0.57 percent on other mobile devices, according to RichRelevance data issued last month. iPad users also spend more money than other mobile shoppers with an average order value of $158, far ahead of $104 for iPhone users and $105 for rival mobile devices. Looks like Apple isn't the only retailer that makes money each time a new iPad is sold.--Jason