There has been a near avalanche of shopping data released over the past several days, much of it documenting the rise of mobile devices in driving traffic and e-commerce purchases. Various estimates ranged from 23% to nearly 40% of traffic coming from mobile over the course of the weekend.
One of the clear winners of the Black Friday weekend shopping bonanza was the iPad. Apple and other retailers offered gift cards as incentives to buy the devices. In combination with general consumer demand that strategy seems to have paid off for Apple.
According to Localytics, which looked at over one million devices before and after Black Friday weekend, the iPad Air in particular saw very strong growth: 51% vs. the week before. So did the Mini and iPhone 5c. Admittedly the iPad Air is growing from a smaller base, although the device had a very strong launch.
The data in the chart above also don't reflect iPads purchased as holiday gifts and not yet opened/activated. So there are probably many more that were purchased than what's represented on this chart.
The top Android tablet was the Kindle Fire, which saw its own aggressive $50 discount from Amazon. The only other Android tablet to show growth is the Galaxy Tab 2, which was heavily discounted online and at several retail stores.
In October Apple announced that 170 million iPads had been sold to date. Given the momentum being reported, it's very likely that Apple will sell 20 million iPads (collectively) in the holiday quarter.
Roughly three years ago Steve Jobs opined that search wasn't as central to the mobile user experience as it is on the PC. That sentiment elicited dismissals as naive or self-serving and was generally disputed. This is what Jobs said verbatim:
On the desktop search is where it’s at; that’s where the money is. But on a mobile device search hasn’t happened. Search is not where it’s at, people are not searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop.
It turns out that when you consider what he actually said, Jobs was exactly right.
Various surveys have found that search is widely used on smartphones. But it's not used as often or as centrally as on the PC. Indeed, search is a more occasional or peripheral experience on smartphones (especially the iPhone), whereas people search many times daily on the PC.
Earlier today Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) released survey data about most frequently used mobile apps among US smartphone owners. The survey measured frequency not reach. This is very important to understand about the data. The firm asked mobile users to identify their "three most frequently used [mobile] apps."
CIRP found that Facebook was the leading and most frequently used mobile app. That was followed by Twitter, Candy Crush and Instagram. The surprise is how low Google Search and Google Maps rank on the list.
Google Maps is #12 and Google (the search engine) is #10. We don't get an analysis of usage by platform (i.e., iOS vs. Android). However I suspect we'd see different rankings on the two platforms, with Google doing better among Android users given search's prominence on the Android OS.
It's unclear how large the sample in this survey was and so we can't tell how reliable these data are. In addition these are self-reported data and not behavioral or traffic data. People often report one thing and do something else.
Having said all that, these data strongly argue that what Jobs said is accurate: "People are not searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop." Although this has been written about at length in the past, if accurate, this more modest mobile search frequency represents an obvious problem for Google as migration from PCs to tablets and smartphones continues.
It makes sense that traditional retailers would handily beat their online only counterparts (save Amazon) this past weekend. That's according to data from Adobe.
We now live in a multi-platform, multi-device world. People move between PCs, tablets and smartphones just as they move from online to stores and back. They also generally prefer the tactile and social experience of shopping offline. Roughly 95% of retail spending happens in physical stores according to the US Census Bureau.
According to Adobe's data, "Traditional brick-and-click retailers are outselling their online-only competitors so far this year at nearly a 3-to-1 ratio." That's because they offer more trusted brands, and online shopping experience and a way to physically examine and immediately buy products and gifts offline.
Location analytics company Placed offered the following data on the most-visited offline stores on Black Friday:
Consistent with others, Adobe reported that 24% of online sales this past weekend took place on mobile devices. The iPad was the preferred "shopping companion device, representing nearly half a billion dollars ($417 million) in sales during these past two days, followed by the iPhone and Android phones at $126 million and $106 million, respectively."
Adobe estimated that Thanksgiving and Black Friday saw just under $3 billion in online spending, which was an increase of 30% over last year. The company projects that e-commerce sales today, "Cyber Monday," will exceed $2 billion ($2.27 billion).
Consistent with pre-Thanksgiving weekend surveys, mobile devices (at home and in the store) played a big role on "Black Friday" and will continue to do so throughout the holiday season. Among others, IBM released a trove of US e-commerce and traffic data for Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend shopping.
Here's a snapshot of some of the IBM data:
Separately, e-commerce analytics provider Custora reported that "almost 40%" of online buying on Black Friday came through mobile devices. I'm quite skeptical about the accuracy of this figure; it seems inflated or drawn from too small a sample. IBM's mobile commerce figure is 22%, which is more plausible.
Below is the Custora breakdown of overall US Black Friday e-commerce sales by device category:
While comScore has argued in the past that smartphones are outpacing tablets in terms of mobile commerce -- which makes logical sense because there are many more smartphones -- I'm doubtful of such claims. IBM's figures seem more (directionally) accurate: tablets: 14.4%, smartphones: 7.2%.
Custora said the following about the distribution of mobile commerce by platform:
We could look at a bunch of other reports and try to determine a consensus about how much e-commerce actually took place via smartphones and tablets. What's more important is the recognition that mobile devices are being widely used by US consumers for shopping and product research, and that serious "m-commerce" is now starting to happen (especially on tablets).
Another interesting fact from the IBM data: "on average, retailers sent 37% more push notifications . . . during the two day period over Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday when compared to daily averages over the past two months." The company also said that retail app installs grew by 23% compared with daily averages over the preceding months.
Reportedly Wal-Mart will be offering the HP Mesquite 7” Tablet for $89 on Black Friday. This is a "3.5 star" tablet but should sell out, given the HP brand and the aggressive price.
There are dozens of sub-$150 and even a surprising number of sub-$100 tablets now available. Most of them are "no name" brands and thus may hold US consumers back. That's why the HP brand matters at this price point.
Many of the low-cost Android-based tablets will be bought by parents for kids this holiday season. But the flood Android tablets, of varying levels of quality, inevitably means that the iPad's market share, with its much higher price points, will decline. That doesn't mean that iPad users won't still generate most of the traffic. Currently the iPad is responsible for more than 80% of US tablet traffic.
The tablet race in the US is between Apple, Samsung, Google/ASUS and Amazon. A quick search on Amazon for tablets reveals page after page of inexpensive Android tablets.
It's not clear right now how these aggressively priced Android tablets will impact the market, beyond bringing more users into the tablet realm (to the likely detriment of PC replacement cycles). But will they cut into iPad sales? Perhaps at the margins. Someone buying the $89 HP tablet is probably not in the market for an iPad Air or Mini, however. Such low-cost Android tablets are more likely to impact other Android OEMs such as Samsung or Kindle (Amazon doesn't classify Kindle Fire as an Android OS device).
Amazon threw down the pricing gauntlet for tablets when it introduced the original Kindle Fire for $199. Now there's increasing price pressure on 7-inch tablets (other than Apple) to enter the market at $150 or less. If this HP tablet and similarly priced others prove to be successful that $150 price point may become "institutionalized" for 7-inch Android devices.
Profits be damned.
Last week ShopKick introduced "shopBeacon," which uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) indoor positioning technology. The company is testing it with Macy's, which has also independently been using indoor location for some time (mainly leveraging WiFi) to enhance its in-store app experience for customers. (See ShopKick demo video.)
ShopKick's adoption of iBeacon is an important move to insert the company back into the in-store shopping conversation. It had been an early pioneer in mobile loyalty, seeking to help retailers drive consumers into stores. But as indoor location has gained momentum ShopKick has largely been on the sidelines -- until now.
ShopKick has a wide range of brands and national retail partners, including Target, BestBuy, Sports Authority and JCPenneys. The company seeks to serve retailers but also "own the customer relationship." Accordingly there's some tension between working with ShopKick and providing a direct indoor-location experience, as Macy's does through its app.
A less-well-known company seeking to do something very similar for retailers is Swirl. Swirl has both a consumer-facing multi-retailer app but also powers the indoor experience for retailer apps through an SDK. Timberland is the company's best-known partner. ShopKick is now also an indoor-location enabler with its shopBeacon BLE beacons.
Apple itself is going to implement iBeacon in its own stores. There are a range of obvious and secondary use cases, including providing enhanced product information and notifications about Genius Bar appointments. Beyond an improved in-store experience, Apple hopes to boost sales through iBeacon. The product can also be used to support in-store mobile payments (see, PayPal Beacon).
It's well established that a majority of consumers have used smartphones in store for research purposes and many are interested in indoor/in-store information. However recent research from ISACA suggests that retailers will need to be judicious about how they use in-store notifications and personalization and not become too "pushy" in trying to upsell and cross-sell consumers.
Another challenge of sorts for retailers with indoor location is the fact that majorities of smartphone shoppers use retailer mobile websites. Indoor-location features are much harder to deliver via websites. Smaller numbers of consumers use retailer apps. This makes sense because apps are typically downloaded and used by a store's most loyal customers, which represent a minority of overall store shoppers.
According to NPD survey data, 71% of smartphone owners access retail websites but only 57% use apps. Many of those apps fall into disuse shortly after they're downloaded. In addition, the survey found that a majority of smartphone shopping-related research was done at home and not on the go, suggesting "that engagement on their smartphone is more of an alternative for online shopping rather than a showrooming tool."
Accordingly in-store information directed at enhancing the customer experience is a way to make apps more relevant and engaging. But as the ISACA study indicates retailers (or mall and venue owners) will need to develop information, content and indoor experiences for customers that are informational and not merely about trying to sell things.
This is a complicated arena for retailers and would-be providers of indoor location and marketing. Experimentation and testing are necessary to determine what's going to "work" for consumers, vendors and venue owners. Macy's is very smart and to be applauded for "getting out in front" of the issue and trying things, notwithstanding the potential exposure to "indoor surveillance" criticisms.
Last week, Isis, the NFC-based mobile wallet initiative from a joint venture of mobile carriers, launched nationwide. It only works on smartphones with an NFC chip, which essentially excludes the iPhone.
While most people expect mobile payments to become mainstream at some point, the outlook for Isis in particular is murky at best, if new survey data from Harris Interactive are reflective of general public opinion.
Harris Interactive surveyed 2,577 US adults in September about their attitudes toward "mobile payments," generally. Scenarios described in survey questions included Square-like smartphone card swipes and "tap-to-pay" NFC systems. Broadly the firm found that more Americans were exposed to and had used some form of mobile payments vs. previous years.
A majority of respondents said they believe that mobile will replace cash and card payments "within five years." However a substantial minority (34%) believe that NFC systems (tap-to-pay) will never become mainstream. Among those who expressed a lack of interest in mobile payments, a "lack of compelling motivation" was cited as the main reason:
Among those not interested in using a smartphone to process payments, a simple lack of compelling motivation remains one of the top factors impeding interest, with 53% saying they don't see any reason to switch from cash or payment cards. This also holds true for smartphone users where a majority (58%) don't see any reason to switch from cash or payment cards either . . .
Simply put, large numbers of people don't see mobile payments, especially NFC-based approaches, as solving a problem. The people behind Isis are conscious of this and are trying to overcome consumer indifference by offering discounts, coupons and cash-back rewards for using it. For example, Amex is offering a 20% cash back award (up to a maxium of $200 total).
However before Android (and Windows Phone) owners can start using Isis they'll need to get an enhanced SIM card. Then they need to download and install the app. Then they need to find merchants with NFC-enabled point of sale systems.
The Harris survey data also reflect that interest in mobile payments in the US has fallen somewhat since last year. Security remains a top concern among a majority of survey respondents: "62% listed the fact that they don't want to store sensitive information on their phone as a reason for lack of interest."
Still the fact that most people believe mobile payments in some form are inevitable means there will eventually be consumer acceptance and adoption. As we've argued before the entry point for mobile payments is not these broad "horizontal" payment platforms but "point solutions" and vertical scenarios featuring a stored payment card (e.g., Uber, Amazon, Starbucks, AirBnB, OpenTable, parking, etc.).
In such situations the convenience and efficiency of paying with an app are obvious to the end user. Indeed, the missing "compelling motivation" is present. Those vertical payment scenarios or point solutions will be the ones that familiarize people with mobile payments, ultimately paving the way for more horizontal payment systems.
The question for Isis is whether it can survive until that day comes or whether it will have to change its approach or otherwise broaden its capabilities to attract more users, especially iPhone users.
One of the maddening things about the cult of iPhone news coverage is that immediately upon the release of this year's product the cycle of rumors and speculation begins about next year's product. So it was and is with the iPhone 5s.
Essentially the day after the iPhone 5s was announced the iPhone 6 rumors began. Part of that was fueled by disappointment about the iPhone 5s' current 4-inch screen and anticipation of a larger-screen in the iPhone 6 (or "Air" as it's now being called).
Indeed, one feature that most US -- perhaps all -- current and would-be iPhone buyers want from the device is a larger screen -- though longer battery life might be a close second. One of the primary ways that Android handsets have successfully competed with the iPhone is by offering larger and high-resolution displays.
Many iPhone owners now have what might be called "screen envy."
Yet Apple has set a very difficult task for itself. It wants to offer a larger screen on the next iPhone -- speculative reports have asserted that there are 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models being tested -- but the company still prizes "one-handed control."
That would seem out of the question for a 5.5-inch device; but it might be possible with a 4.7-inch screen. It's difficult to imagine what a one-handed, 4.7-inche phone would look like.
Might it be even "taller" than the 5s, which lengthened but didn't proportionally widen the screen? Most larger-screen Android models (4.8-inch and above) can't be entirely operated by one hand. But they preserve proportionality, which in my view is lacking in the "tall" 5s.
The largest a smartphone screen can stretch before it becomes a "phablet" is about 5-inches. Apple's next phone needs to reach about 4.7 or 4.8 inches to be competitive; 4.5 won't cut it. And despite rumors of curved displays it's not clear how Apple is elegantly going to attain that objective and still make one handed control possible.
Android is the world's dominant mobile operating system. In Q3 IDC estimated that Android represented 81% of all smartphone shipments globally.
Android's lead may further expand if the forthcoming Moto G smartphone from Google is as successful as I suspect it will be. The phone carries fairly strong specs, including a long battery life and 4.5-inch display. But it's the price that will drive sales volume.
Pre-empting Amazong and poking a finger in Samsung's eye, the unlocked phone will cost $179 (8GB) or $199 (16GB). Google must be planning to sell the phone at cost or even at a loss. We'll find out when the iFixit people get a look.
Motorola has continued to lose market share over the past few years. The Moto X was the first phone designed by Motorola after Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of the company. However its sales have been lackluster. Absent some major flaw the Moto G looks like it could be an antidote for Motorola's brand and sales woes.
Moto G's low low pricing also puts pressure on Amazon (as well as everyone else). The latter had been rumored to be building a low-cost Android handset. But it will be challenging for Amazon to match Moto G's price and apparent quality without losing money.
The fact that Moto G is unlocked and so inexpensive could change the broader dynamics of the market -- motivating more people to buy pre-paid carrier plans and get away from contracts (which is a broader trend anyway).
Apple is unlikely to try and answer the handset's pricing but other Android OEMs may be forced to. That's potentially bad news for Samsung and especially bad news for HTC, which is under tremendous pressure and may be forced to sell itself (or into bankruptcy) eventually.
A provocative article in Mobile Marketer this morning discusses how the aesthetics and layout of retail spaces are changing to accommodate the mobile shopper. Here's a representative excerpt:
AT&T recently unveiled a new store format intended to reflect customers’ mobile lifestyle where café-style learning tables replace cash registers.
The store layout highlights products and services in three different thematic areas. In the Connected Experience, shoppers can see how solutions can be used in their everyday lives. The Community Zone features an open and interactive space where customers can test products. In the Explore Zone, there are digital monitors to highlight AT&T’s lineup.
This sort of "customer experience" was largely inspired by or modeled on Apple retail stores -- especially the replacement of cash registers with free-roving sales associates. However beyond improving the "flow" and "engagement" of retail spaces there are other considerations to be factored in.
The article doesn't at all discuss how data gathered from indoor analytics can help retailers do a better job with layout and usability of their stores. Indoor location data and usage patterns should be included in the "aesthetics" and layout discussions because they will lend empirical grounding to what is otherwise a relatively speculative discussion.
How do consumer actually behave in stores? How are they interacting with displays? These sorts of data are readily available and can inform the broader debate about how to reconfigure retail environments.
Another interesting angle here is how mobile payments will be affected by retail store redesign. My belief is that low-skilled and poorly paid store (and QSR) cashiers will be increasingly replaced by mobile payments and self-checkout kiosks.
Loyal store customers will increasingly have a mobile app with stored credit card information. That scenario will become increasingly prevalent in stores. For those customers without a retail/payment app, Apple-style mobile in-store checkout will prevail.