August 23, 2013, 9:27 AM

U.S. mobile sales are up 24% year over year in Q2

M-commerce represented 9% of all online commerce in the quarter, comScore says.

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U.S. mobile commerce sales in the second quarter of 2013 were up 23.7% year over year to $4.7 billion from $3.8 billion in Q2 2012, according to the latest findings from web measurement firm comScore Inc. In contrast, U.S. e-commerce sales via desktop/laptop computers were up 15.3% in Q2 2013 to $49.8 billion from $43.2 billion in Q2 2012.M

A few factors are driving the growth of mobile commerce, which in the second quarter accounted for 9% of all digital commerce, says Andrew Lipsman, vice president, industry analysis, at comScore. Not only are more consumers using smartphones and tablets as time passes, but the technology has improved to better facilitate making mobile purchases, Lipsman says. “Sites and apps are optimized, we’re on 4G so things load more quickly—there’s much less friction in the process,” he says. 

As mobile devices become widespread, consumers also become more comfortable trying to do new things with them, Lipsman says. That includes shopping—the longer a consumer owns a smartphone, the fewer barriers she’ll have to trying a mobile checkout, he says. The busy Q4 season is typically a time of year when more shoppers test new behaviors, like using an app or buying an item from a smartphone, he adds, in part because retailers are running more promotions and launching new shopping tools during that season.

The second quarter is somewhat the antithesis to Q4, with shopping slowing down a bit, especially on mobile, Lipsman says. While m-commerce made up 9% of all online commerce in Q2, in both Q1 and Q4 2012 it made up 11%, he says. “We’re seeing a seasonal pattern," he says. "We should be back to that level if not higher by Q4 this year.”

What mobile shoppers did buy in the second quarter was mostly apparel and accessories, which drew more than $700 million in sales, comScore reports. The firm declined to give details about the sales breakdown in other categories, but Lipsman offers data on how particular categories fared with regard to visits on tablets and smartphones in comparison to how they fared on desktop. 

The index uses 100 as a benchmark for desktop visits. So, tablets receiving an index figure of 147 in apparel means consumers on tablets are 47% more likely to visit apparel sites than consumers on desktops. And smartphones receiving an index figure of 55 in computer hardware means consumers on smartphones are 45% less likely to visit computer hardware sites than consumers on desktops. Following are the retail categories comScore measured with how all mobile visits indexed compared to desktop visits in Q2 2013, how smartphones compared to desktop and how tablets compared to desktop:

• Department stores: All mobile, 104; Smartphones, 97; Tablets, 118.

• Comparison shopping: All mobile, 71; Smartphones, 66; Tablets, 68.

• Apparel: All mobile, 103; Smartphones, 90; Tablets, 147.

• Computer hardware: All mobile, 63; Smartphones, 55; Tablets, 80.

• Home furnishings: All mobile, 91; Smartphones, 70; Tablets, 158.

• Consumer electronics: All mobile, 95; Smartphones, 87; Tablets, 100.

• Retail movies: All mobile, 130; Smartphones, 119; Tablets, 144.

• Health care: All mobile, 130; Smartphones, 124; Tablets, 115.

• Books: All mobile, 215; Smartphones, 202; Tablets, 221.

“How people shop for items is very category-dependent,” Lipsman says. “Apparel and home furnishings are highly visual, not commodity products. So the limited screen size of the smartphone is not conducive to that category, but the tablet is—it’s almost like a new form of window shopping, it’s so visual.”

Meanwhile both computer hardware and comparison shopping are less likely to be visited on mobile devices than on desktops, he points out. Desktops may have the advantage in those categories, he suggests, because the processes of configuring product specifications or comparing multiple products simultaneously, for example, might be harder to do on smaller mobile devices.

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