On Cyber Monday, Mobile — Not Social — Takes All the Glory

On Cyber Monday, Etsy said it completed more sales than at any time in its seven-year history, driven by a number of factors.

One standout measurement was the number of visitors coming to the crafts marketplace from mobile devices: It said that one-third of shoppers came from mobile, and that 30 percent of mobile visits came from tablets.

A blog post detailing the company’s holiday shopping highlights, however, did not once mention social networking, likely because there was little to share. Based on multiple third-party reports, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have contributed virtually zero in sales over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

A year or more ago, mobile and social commerce were consistently mentioned in the same breath as two areas of potential growth for e-commerce. But as this holiday shopping season proceeds, it is clear that the two are not equal — so far, mobile is dominating. Social networking was a #noshow.

One clear reason for the disparity is that mobile phones and tablets are simply pocket- and purse-sized computers which allow consumers to shop wherever they are. In contrast, social commerce is more complicated. Consumers may discover new products through friends, or get advice via Facebook or Twitter, but being able to track those referrals back to where they came from is not always easy.

Additionally, sales that take place directly on social networks, as is the case with Facebook Gifts, are just starting to get off the ground.

According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, which tracks more than a million e-commerce transactions a day from 500 retailers nationwide, online sales increased 30.3 percent on Cyber Monday compared to last year. The tremendous spike was driven in part by the adoption of mobile devices.

In particular, IBM found that mobile sales reached close to 13 percent of overall transactions, increasing more than 96 percent over 2011. The iPad, specifically, generated more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone, driving more than 7 percent of online shopping. In contrast, sales coming from social networks actually decreased 26 percent year over year, generating only 0.41 percent of all online sales on Cyber Monday.

One note worth mentioning is that IBM does not track referrals from Pinterest, which, earlier this year, was on pace to become the most significant driver of social traffic to e-commerce sites — besting mature networks like Facebook and Twitter.

A study conducted by Adobe, which did take Pinterest into account, determined that social shopping had actually doubled year over year, representing 2 percent of total visits to e-commerce sites (that’s visits, not sales). According to the Adobe Digital Index, which tracks the majority of the top 20 online retailers, including Best Buy, eBay, Target and Walmart, Facebook and Twitter accounted for 77 percent of social networking traffic on Cyber Monday, Pinterest for 15 percent (up 105 percent year over year), while other sites contributed the remaining 8 percent.

It’s possible that e-commerce sites found it more valuable to focus on Pinterest this year, which would account for IBM seeing a decrease in referrals from traditional social networks. Still, social is obviously less mature. It will take awhile for it to achieve the kind of scale retailers need to move the needle. A recent report conducted by Booz & Co. suggests that revenue from physical goods sold on social networks will grow by 93 percent per year in the U.S., reaching $14 billion by 2015.


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