July 10, 2014, 1:38 PM

E-mail trumps social media in driving m-commerce sales

On smartphones alone, e-mail drives 26.7% of sales compared with 23.1% on tablets and 20.9% on desktops, Custora says in its E-Commerce Pulse Mobile report. Direct traffic to retail web sites is also driving more sales on mobile devices than on desktop computers.

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Mobile commerce in the last four years has had a growth trajectory similar to that of a hungry seventh grader. U.S. retail sales on smartphones and tablets have skyrocketed from $2.2 billion in 2010 to $42.8 billion in 2013, according to e-marketing services provider Custora, which uses data from the U.S. Department of Commerce to estimate mobile’s share of e-commerce sales.

One of the top drivers of those sales is e-mail. In fact, despite the challenges of making e-mail easy to read on smaller screens and linking into apps rather than web sites, e-mail on smartphones and tablets are outperforming e-mails on desktop PCs: In 2013, e-mail drove 26.7% of sales on smartphones compared with 23.1% on tablets and 20.9% on desktops, Custora says in its E-Commerce Pulse Mobile report. Social media, meanwhile, led to just 0.6% of sales on smartphones, 0.2% on tablets and 0.3% on desktops in 2013.

Custora bases its figures on its own analysis of data gathered from more than $10 billion in online sales across more than 100 retailers based in the United States. The report does not include actual revenue figures.

Direct traffic to retailers’ sites also accounted for a higher percentage of sales on both smartphones and tablets in 2013 than on desktops. Customers typing in the web address to visit a retailer on smartphones drove 32.9% of sales on those devices last year; on tablets, 22.5%; and on desktop computers, 21.3%, Custora says.

Retailers would do well to segment their customers by the devices they use to shop—and how many devices they use—then adjust their marketing strategies accordingly, says Corey Pierson, Custora’s CEO. “High-value, repeat customers are now three times more likely to be cross-device shoppers than they were in early 2012,” he says. “The fastest-growing retail brands segment their customer bases and know that different customer segments have unique device preferences, which often translate to varied product category preferences and specific purchasing patterns.”

Between January and March 2014, 12% of online shoppers made purchases from more than one device, the report says. While still a small sliver, that’s up from 4% just two years ago in 2012.

“Getting more of these high-value, cross-device shoppers is the Holy Grail,” Pierson says. “We found that many shoppers start with desktop purchases, and when they feel comfortable enough with the brand they move on to mobile devices, ultimately resulting in high-value, repeat shoppers.”

The report also reveals increasing competition for long-time m-commerce leader Apple Inc.’s iPhones and iPads, primarily from Samsung and Amazon.com Inc. devices. As the iPhone’s share of mobile commerce sales dropped from 75.1% in January 2012 to 53.6% in March 2014, Samsung’s share more than doubled, from 6.9% in 2012 to 30.5% in 2014.

Meanwhile, though iPads still account for the most sales on tablets (79.9%), sales on Samsung s and Amazon Kindle Fire tablets have each seen steady growth, accounting for 12.4% and 4.1% of total tablet sales as of March 2014, respectively, Custora says. The remaining 3.6% of sales on tablets are made on tablets from other manufacturers. “This might be a promising sign for the recently announced Amazon smartphone,” Pierson says.

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