Did Mobile Commerce Really Drive the Growth in eCommerce Holiday Sales?

Like I said in my previous blog: This Holiday season was great. According to IBM, who produces two benchmark reports tracking online sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, sales increased 33% over 2010 says. And it would seem that we all skipped the nap after our Thanksgiving meals to get a head start on shopping.  Thanksgiving day sales grew by the largest amount, up 39.3 percent with Black Friday up by 24.3 percent and Cyber Monday up 33 percent.

Home goods and department stores saw the greatest gains on Cyber Monday with increases from 2010 of 68 percent and 60 percent respectively.  Looking a little deeper at the data it was interesting to see that both of these categories showed significant gains in their conversion rates.  Home goods retailers were up over 22 percent and department stores saw conversion rate increases of over 16 percent.

Improving conversion rates is a major initiative for every ecommerce exec so the big question on my mind was how did they achieve such strong gains.  Did they offer better deals than last year?  Had they redesign their site to improve usability?  Or, did this increase in conversion have something to do with the surge in mobile commerce activity?

On Cyber Monday, IBM reported that traffic from mobile devices was up 161 percent and mobiles share of total sales had grown by almost 200 percent.  The data from Black Friday showed similar gains and indicated that mobile was responsible for nearly 10 percent of total sales. Conversion rates from mobile were up as well with Cyber Monday showing an increase of 26 percent and Black Friday up by 32 percent.  Mobile commerce clearly had a hand in these conversion rate improvements and since this data was in aggregate, it could have had an even bigger impact on the home goods and department store categories.

These retailers have definitely been making significant investments in mobile initiatives this year.  Just about every major department store has launched new mobile websites and apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.  The improvements were focused on building features to make shopping easier.  For instance, search functionality was enhanced to include refinements and sorting.  The new apps for the most part included the ability to create shopping lists and some like those from Sears, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Target even added the ability to scan QR and barcodes so finding product information was even easier.

Department stores are also at the head of the pack in terms of their mobile site performance.  Sears, J.C. Penny and Walmart are consistently ranked at the top of the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index.  To speed up access, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have gone even further by adding free Wi-Fi service this year in most stores.

Aside from the mobile initiatives, I think Free Shipping promotions were another factor that likely led to the conversion rate improvements.  At the end of August, Nordstrom began offering Free Shipping for the majority of items. On Cyber Monday, Macy’s dropped their minimum order value to qualify for free shipping from $99 to $75 and Kohls.com completely eliminated their $50 minimum purchase requirement.

I’m sure an interview with the heads of ecommerce at these major department stores would reveal many more actions they took to improve conversion rates.  Until then, I would love to hear what changes you have made to drive higher conversion rates and find out how that is working out.  Share you thoughts in the comments box below.