IBM: Smartphones drove holiday mobile traffic, but tablets delivered sales

There was a lot of big talk about how mobile would change the face of holiday shopping. IBM is already reporting what actually happened.


Once the news about the astronomical security breach at Target broke, arguably that stole the spotlight for the rest of the holiday season as far as shopping and e-commerce was concerned.

But there were still plenty of other retailers operating business as usual, and mobile was heavily expected to play a big part this year .

Being one of the leading purveyors of real-time big data analytics and results (or at least the rhetoric behind the technology), IBM has published some final figures pinpointing the dent mobile actually made.

The big takeaway from IBM's fourth quarter retail online index report is that while smartphones fostered far and away the most traffic on mobile platforms, tablets delivered most prominently for what could be construed as the most important metric: sales.

Covering the time frame between October 1 and December 31, IBM found that smartphones drove 21.3 percent of all online traffic, close to double what tablets produced at 12.8 percent.

But tablets had the last laugh, driving 11.5 percent of all online sales, well more than twice that of smartphones at approximately five percent.  Tablet users also tended to spend more per order at an average of $118.09, compared to smartphone users, who averaged $104.72 per order.

And despite what was dubbed a shorter time frame for shopping this past holiday season, online sales overall were still up for the fourth quarter by an increase of 10.3 percent, year-over-year.

Mobile (both smartphones and tablets) traffic accounted for close to 35 percent of all online traffic, up 40 percent from the same time last year, with mobile sales jumping 46 percent to account for 16.6 percent of all online sales.

For analysts, fanboys, and anyone else who wants to break those figures down even further, iOS handily beat Android across the board as far as traffic, sales, and average spend was concerned.

IBM reported that smartphones running Apple's mobile operating system delivered e-commerce sales at a rate of almost five times higher than Android at a rate of 12.7 percent versus 2.6 percent.

On the social side, Pinterest lived up to expectations as the social network continues to expand its roots in the e-commerce sector.

Referrals from the digital scrapbooking site drove $109.93 on average per order, compared to just $60.48 from referrals deriving from Facebook.

But the world's largest social network still proves to be a force to be reckoned with in e-commerce potential as Facebook referrals converted to sales at more than three and a half times the rate of Pinterest.