Desktops remain an important platform for big online purchases

Brick-and-mortar retail remains crucially important to brands around the world, but this has been especially true in Western markets. Mobile has helped create an e-commerce boom in less developed economies like China, which now has the most robust e-commerce economy in the world. Western markets are behind in this area, but they’re seeing big growth in e-commerce sales this holiday season.

On Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S., e-commerce sales increased between 15 and 17 percent. While U.S. shoppers still prefer to do their shopping on a desktop or laptop, that share is shrinking. Smartphone e-commerce sales grew 9 percent in the third quarter, according to data from Criteo. A November survey from RetailMeNot shows shopping on smartphones made up more than a quarter of e-commerce sales in the U.S.

(Source: eMarketer)

E-commerce growth is outpacing retail growth in other Western markets, as well. In the U.K., e-commerce holiday sales are up 13 percent compared with 3 percent for retails sales in general. In Germany, Christmas e-commerce sales are up 10 percent this year, similar to e-commerce sales growth Germany saw throughout 2017.

While mobile is an important aspect of growing e-commerce sales, the way its used in Western markets isn’t the same as what’s been seen in Asia. Since smartphones are the primary means through which many people in Asia interact with the internet, people are comfortable making purchases of all kinds through their phones. During China’s Singles’ Day this year, Alibaba saw 90 percent of sales come from mobile devices.

Americans, on the other hand, remain more tepid about big purchase decisions on mobile. Data from comScore shows that while more than 50 percent of Americans are comfortable buying toys, video games and consoles, entertainment and jewelry on mobile, people prefer buying most everything else on desktop (if they’re buying them online at all).

(Data: comScore via eMarketer)

The data is perhaps most important to the technology industry because more than 85 percent of Americans buy consumer electronics and computer hardware on desktop rather than mobile. This can change how a startup decides to position itself and market online. If a startup has a hardware device that fits comfortably in the “toy” or “hobby” category, pushing to get the sale on mobile makes more sense in the U.S. Otherwise, the desktop is still king.

There are other things happening here, too, of course. Younger people who are more likely to buy video games and music probably make up much of those mobile sales. Desktop sales may decline in other categories as these consumers get older.

Consumers also aren’t just being exposed to a product on a single platform or in a single place. We’ve already covered why it’s important to have products on display at physical retail locations. This can help convince consumers to pull the trigger and buy the product. The comScore data only shows where the sale goes through. It’s possible that mobile advertising also results in a sale on desktop.

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