Smartphones will play a more crucial role than ever this holiday season, according to a new report from Salesforce. And not just through transactions: The results also peg mobile app Instagram as the fastest-growing social media channel for referring retail traffic online.
The software giant annually publishes a study for holiday shopping predictions, and the latest installment sees the relative influence of phones exploding during the make-or-break retail season. Mobile devices will usher in 68 percent of all e-commerce visits — more than any other device — for a 19 percent year-over-year growth, the report said.
“Mobile is undoubtedly the most disruptive force in retail since the onset of e-commerce,” said Rick Kenney, head of consumer insights at Salesforce. “This is the year shoppers turn to phones, buying more on phones than any other device, and making far more visits, too.”
“We’ll see more visits from phones this season than total e-commerce visits across the entire 2015 shopping season. And even those in-store shoppers are mobile — 83 percent of shoppers aged 18 to 44 are using their phones while in a physical store,” he added.
Mobile phones will power 46 percent of all orders, edging out computers (44 percent) and dwarfing tablets (9 percent).
The company, which specializes in customer relationship management software, extrapolated insights based on the behaviors of 500 million consumers across 53 countries and billions of purchases, covering transactions from its Commerce Cloud service and data from its Shopper-First Retailing Report.
One major reason for mobile’s booming influence on culture and commerce is social media. And when it comes to the cross-section of social and retail, Instagram is becoming a juggernaut.
Salesforce believes that the Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform will see traffic rocket up, clocking in a 51 percent gain year-over-year. Furthermore, it sees a lot of that activity coming from health and beauty shoppers, as the most likely to hit up an e-commerce site through Instagram.
The prediction looks especially noteworthy, compared to expectations around its parent company. Salesforce data suggests Facebook usage will decline 7 percent over the holidays. Still, social traffic share overall is expected to tick upward over the peak season, exceeding 5 percent and pulling in a 17 percent increase over last year.
The company also charted the growing prominence of artificial intelligence. A major proponent and provider of retail AI, Salesforce anticipates AI-powered product recommendations will drive a 25 percent jump in holiday revenue over the same period last year and fuel 35 percent of all revenue during the season.
As always, the stakes are sky-high for retailers, many of whom make the bulk of their annual revenue during the period starting on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This year, Cyber Week will be even more important: It’s expected to account for 40 percent of the entire season’s e-commerce sales, for a growth of 8 percent over 2017.
The report also shows mobile traffic share peaking on Christmas Eve, accounting for 72 percent of all visits and 54 percent of orders.