Mobile commerce grew to 13.3 percent of online sales in in the first quarter, up from 7 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to the IBM retail online economic indicator, a cloud-based analytics report which examines the state of the online retail sector.


Part of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative, the retail online economic indicator draws data and insights from IBM's big data offerings to provide the industry's most comprehensive look into the pulse of online retail through traditional and social media channels.  The indicator analysis for first-quarter 2012 reveals the following trends:


Online retail sales for Q1 2012 versus Q1 2011



  • Consumer Spending: While total online sales were down 1.9 percent over Q1 2011, sales increased 6.3 percent from February to March 2012.
  • Mobile Traffic: 17.1 percent of all online sessions on a retailer's site were initiated from a mobile device, exceeding the 6.1 percent over this same period in 2011.
  • Mobile Devices: Apple's iPhone continued to rank one for mobile device retail traffic at 6.5 percent with Android taking second at 5.9 percent. iPad came in third at 5.3 percent.
  • Social Traffic: Shoppers referred from Social Networks generated 1.1 percent of all online traffic over Q1 2012, identical to the 1.1 percent seen in 2011.
  • Social Sales: Shoppers referred to retailer sites from Social Networks generated 2.4 percent of all online sales over Q1 2012, an increase from the 1.7 percent seen over this period last year.

Online Retail Categories for Q1 2012 versus Q1 2011:

  • Apparel stores maintained strong momentum with Q1 sales growing 14.9 percent
  • Department stores continued to catch the attention of consumers with sales growing 20.4 percent

Consumer Sentiment for Department Stores for Q1 2012 versus Q1 2011


  • The Buying Experience:  While consumers believe the overall “Buying Experience” improved year over year, the digital online experience saw the most positive improvements in sentiment.  A leading factor was convenience, which had a 65.8 percent positive sentiment rating, more than six times the negative sentiment. This was followed by value which was 51.8 percent, interaction at 36.6 percent and deals at 30.4 percent.
  • The Online Influence: The key elements driving positive sentiment have the highest affinity with the online channel, demonstrating the influence it is having on the overall buying experience. These concepts include information quality and availability, in-store integration, convenience, shipping and interaction.
  • Product Availability: On the opposite side of the spectrum, negative sentiment was highest around availability which received a rating of 24.4 percent.

“Over the first quarter, the digitally empowered consumer continued to demonstrate the momentum of the online channel and specifically mobile commerce, which has established itself as a legitimate channel for shopping,” said Craig Hayman, General Manager, IBM Industry Solutions. “Moving ahead, we will help retailers synchronize the demand and supply chains to address issues of product availability and connect to the mobile buyer.”