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Online and Mobile Buying Trends Continue to Rise in First-Quarter, Reports IBM

Mobile Commerce Nearly Doubles to 13.3 Percent of Online Retail Sales

Rising Consumer Sentiment Driven By Improving Online Experience

May 2, 2012

ARMONK, N.Y., May 2, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. retail industry saw continued growth in online and mobile buying trends in the first-quarter, driven by today's rising digital consumer marketplace. According to the IBM (NYSE: IBM) retail online economic indicator, a cloud-based analytics report which examines the state of the online retail sector, mobile commerce grew to more than 13 percent, while online buying grew more than 6 percent in March 2012.  

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This report follows recent news from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau which announced its estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for the first-quarter 2012. According to the findings, retail sales increased by 0.8 percent in March compared to February and sales for the month were up 6.5 percent compared to the same time last year. Total sales for the first quarter of 2012 were up 6.4 percent from the same period a year ago.

IBM's retail online economic indicator identified several trends of importance to chief marketing officers, ecommerce leaders and customer service professionals. The most notable development over this first-quarter period was the continued growth of mobile commerce sales which accounted for 13.3 percent of online retail sales, double the number seen in the same time-frame the previous year.  

In addition to sales, the economic indicator identified an increase in positive consumer sentiment around key attributes of a successful digital buying experience. The indicator found consumers are increasingly optimistic when it comes to convenience, experience and overall value, each up from this same period last year, based on their online shopping experience.  Businesses are also increasingly looking to analyze social media such as Facebook and Twitter to assess the way their customers view them.

Part of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative, the retail online economic indicator draws data and insights from IBM's big data offerings to provide the industry's most comprehensive look into the pulse of online retail through traditional and social media channels.  The indicator analysis for first-quarter 2012 reveals the following trends:

Online Retail Sales for Q1 2012 versus Q1 2011

  • Consumer Spending: While total online sales were down 1.9 percent over Q1 2011, sales increased 6.3 percent from February to March 2012.
  • Mobile Sales: Sales from mobile devices reached 13.3 percent, up from the 7 percent in Q1 2011.
  • Mobile Traffic: 17.1 percent of all online sessions on a retailer's site were initiated from a mobile device, exceeding the 6.1 percent over this same period in 2011.
  • Mobile Devices: Apple's iPhone continued to rank one for mobile device retail traffic at 6.5 percent with Android taking second at 5.9 percent. iPad came in third at 5.3 percent.
  • Social Traffic: Shoppers referred from Social Networks generated 1.1 percent of all online traffic over Q1 2012, identical to the 1.1 percent seen in 2011.
  • Social Sales: Shoppers referred to retailer sites from Social Networks generated 2.4 percent of all online sales over Q1 2012, an increase from the 1.7 percent seen over this period last year.

Online Retail Categories for Q1 2012 versus Q1 2011:

  • Apparel stores maintained strong momentum with Q1 sales growing 14.9 percent
  • Department stores continued to catch the attention of consumers with sales growing 20.4 percent
  • Health & Beauty sales grew by 28.8 percent as consumers continued to treat themselves this quarter
  • Home goods experienced a 29.3 percent increase in sales in Q1 with consumers continuing to shop for their homes.
  • Jewelry stores continued recent momentum with sales growing by 11.3 percent
  • Office Supply/Electronics experienced growth in Q1 with online sales increasing by 6.6 percent

Consumer Sentiment for Department Stores for Q1 2012 versus Q1 2011

  • The Buying Experience:  While consumers believe the overall "Buying Experience" improved year over year, the digital online experience saw the most positive improvements in sentiment.  A leading factor was convenience which had a 65.8 percent positive sentiment rating, more than six times the negative sentiment. This was followed by value which was 51.8 percent, interaction at 36.6 percent and deals at 30.4 percent.
  • The Online Influence: The key elements driving growing positive sentiment have the highest affinity with the online channel, demonstrating the influence it is having on the overall buying experience. These concepts include information quality and availability, in-store integration, convenience, shipping and interaction.
  • Product Availability: On the opposite side of the spectrum, negative sentiment was highest around availability which received a rating of 24.4 percent.

"Over the first quarter, the digitally empowered consumer continued to demonstrate the momentum of the online channel and specifically mobile commerce, which has established itself as a legitimate channel for shopping," said Craig Hayman, General Manager, IBM Industry Solutions. "Moving ahead, we will help retailers synchronize the demand and supply chains to address issues of product availability and connect to the mobile buyer."

To further discuss the Economic Indicator and field questions, Strategy Director, IBM Digital Marketing Jay Henderson will conduct an online question and answer session on May 2, 2012, 3-4 p.m. ET. To participate in the discussion, register here.

IBM online economic indicator
The IBM retail online economic indicator features data from IBM's analytics offerings including the Benchmark and IBM Cognos Consumer Insight. The IBM Benchmark is the only analytics-based, peer-level benchmarking solution that measures online marketing results, including real-time sales data. All of the data is aggregated and anonymous.  Analysis of public social media content came via IBM Cognos Consumer Insight which provides insight into underlying holiday shopping trends, hot topics of discussion and consumer sentiment.   Follow the conversation at #bigdata

About IBM Smarter Commerce
IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative delivers software and services to help companies transform their business processes to more quickly respond to shifting customer demands in today's digitally transformed marketplace.  The initiative is driven by the demands from organizations who are increasingly looking for ways to bring new levels of automation to marketing, sales and fulfillment to secure greater customer loyalty. The growth of mobile, social and online commerce are key trends within Smarter Commerce.

More information on Smarter Commerce can be found at

To join the conversation, follow hashtag #smartercommerce and #bigdata on Twitter


Doug Fraim

Mike Azzi

IBM Media Relations

IBM Media Relations





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