More and more shoppers are going mobile

Updated: 2014-12-02 10:20

By CHANG JUN(China Daily USA)

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The retail data on both Black Friday in the US and the 11-11 "Valentine's Day" shopping spree in China show that a sizable number of the transactions were completed through handheld devices and the Internet, a trend that retailers and e-commerce enterprises might want to keep an eye on.

This year's holiday shopping season got an earlier than usual start as a number of retailers launched online sales on Thanksgiving Day or even earlier. Luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales started offering deals a week early on their websites and the strategy seemed to work well.

ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce company based in North Carolina, said roughly 2,700 online retailers had witnessed in general a 20 percent growth in Thanksgiving holiday sales volumes over last year, with Amazon leading the pack with a 25.9 percent growth year-on-year.

According to IBM's Benchmark data released on Nov 30, mobile played a bigger role this year especially on Thanksgiving Day when mobile and online retail accounted for 52 percent of all online traffic. By 6 pm EST on Black Friday in the US, mobile traffic accounted for up to 46.7 percent of all online traffic — an increase of 24 percent over the same period last year, said the report.

Hand-held devices such as smartphones are noted to have played an increasingly important role on this weekend, but all did not go well everywhere.

According to Cathpoint Systems, a web performance monitoring company, Best Buy had undergone three crashes after its Thanksgiving sales began. The first outage took place from 5-6:30 am (EST); the second was 8-9:30 am, both on Thursday. On Black Friday, the company's website crashed again at 10 am.

Market observers also noticed that despite retailers running early sales, Black Friday still generated the biggest online sales volumes, which were up 8.5 percent over the same period last year, according to IBM.

Meanwhile, though mobile on Black Friday didn't claim over half of online traffic as it did on Thursday, the percentage of online sales steadily increased. Mobile sales accounted for 26.1 percent of all online sales on Black Friday, an increase of 24.7 percent over last year.

For China's largest e-commerce company, Alibaba, which reported a record high of more than $9 billion in sales within 24 hours on Nov 11, the story was similar.

Alibaba's researchers found that 43 percent of sales on Nov 11 were generated through mobile devices and the Internet.

Li Jingming, president and chief architect of Alipay US, told China Daily that the company had prepared to cope with the increased online shopping population, and has tailored their services and tools to better meet clients' needs. In October, Alipay launched ePass, a new service that will help US and European retailers sell products directly to Chinese shoppers.

By integrating into Western retailers' websites as an alternative payment solution like eBay's PayPal, ePass is expected to help overseas merchants tap into China's rapidly growing online shopping community without actually expanding their presence in the Chinese market.

Through ePass, American and European merchants would enable Chinese shoppers — with a good command of English — to have access to foreign retailer's websites and buy directly online, Li explained.

"It functions like a combination of cross-border foreign currency settlement with overseas delivery solutions from Alibaba's Smart LogisticsNetwork in China, also known as Cainiao," Li said.

"We are trying to make it easy for Western merchants to reach Chinese consumers without actually being present in China," Li said, noting that with ePass, retailers can save themselves the headache of establishing bricks-and-mortar warehouses or hiring staff in China.

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