Bargains trump security worries for mobile shoppers on Thanksgiving, Black Friday

Bargain hunters lured by big discounts from U.S. retailers put aside security worries on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and used their smartphones and tablets for early Christmas shopping.

The mobile shopping spree

Based on its analysis of 800 U.S. retail websites, IBM says the surge in mobile shopping started on Thanksgiving, traditionally a day for football and family. In these modern times, the day of giving thanks included saving a few bucks in a weak economy.

Mobile sales on the holiday reached nearly 26 percent of total online sales. The surge continued on Black Friday, when mobile devices accounted for about 22 percent of total sales. On both days, people spent significantly more with their mobile devices than a year ago.

Mobile traffic was also up substantially as people generally used their smartphones to browse sales and their tablets to buy. People who bought using tablets spent on average 15 percent more per order than smartphone shoppers.

Apple's focus on the premium end of the mobile market was reflected in per-order spending. On average, iOS users outspent Android toters, $127.92 versus $105.20. iOS sales as a percentage of all online sales was five times higher than for Android.

Enticing mobile shoppers

So how did retailers get people to pick up their mobile devices on one of the biggest holidays of the year? Through lots of alert messages and popup notifications from mobile apps.

During the two-day shopping fest for bargain hunters, retailers sent 37 percent more push notifications than the daily average over the last two months. Apparently hoping to whet people's appetite for deals, retailers sent more notifications on Thanksgiving than on Black Friday.

We know nothing about the mobile shoppers themselves, such as their age, gender, race or location. We only know that they're out there and retailers would be fools to ignore them.

The majority of shoppers are likely paying for the purchases with credit or debit cards, similar to how they would pay for stuff on a website accessed through a personal computer. The fact that shoppers are using mobile devices signals that they are becoming comfortable with doing transactions.

This could in time help lead to wider use of mobile wallets for storing everything from credit, debit and loyalty cards to personal information on a smartphone for quick and easy purchases.

However, a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that people won't use mobile wallets unless they are free of liability if the phone is lost, stolen or otherwise compromised. They also worry that their phones will become a greater target for theft.

Nevertheless, the holiday weekend demonstrates that people will shop with mobile devices and will likely do a lot more if the security worries go away.

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