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Smartphones, Tablets Drive Faster Growth in Ecommerce Sales

Mobile will take a greater percentage of total ecommerce retail sales

April 24, 2013

Mobile shopping—particularly on tablet devices—is having an outsize impact on the ecommerce world, contributing to an increasing share of US retail ecommerce sales and exerting more influence on overall retail sales, according to new estimates from eMarketer.

This year, 15% of online retail sales will take place via mobile devices, according to eMarketer, up from 11% in 2012. By 2017, the percentage will rise to 25%.

Overall, eMarketer estimates, US retail mcommerce sales will reach nearly $39 billion in 2013, up 56.5% over 2012 and almost triple the amount spent in 2011. This includes products and services ordered online via any mobile device, whether payment or fulfillment happened on mobile itself or in person. The estimates exclude sales of travel services or event tickets.

US Retail Mcommerce Sales, 2011-2017 (billions, % change and % of retail ecommerce)

Tablets are driving much of this spending growth. The majority of mcommerce sales this year will be made on tablets, compared with the 35% of mcommerce sales expected to be made on smartphone devices. By 2017, tablets’ share of US retail mcommerce sales will rise to 71.5%, vs. 27% for smartphones.

Increased spending comes as smartphones and tablets have become commonplace devices for shopping and buying online. In 2013, 79.4 million US consumers, amounting to 51% of digital buyers, will purchase online using a mobile device. By 2017, 77.1% of digital buyers in the US will use a mobile device to make at least one online purchase.

Tablet users have the greater presence among digital buyers. Having a tablet almost guarantees that the person uses it for ecommerce. By 2017, 78% of US tablet users will make purchases via the device. Furthermore, 69.6% of digital buyers in the US will be tablet buyers, while 49.9% will be smartphone buyers.

US Mobile Buyers, by Device, 2011-2017

Undoubtedly, some mcommerce sales merely replaced purchases that would have otherwise occurred online via PC or laptop. But mobile is an ecommerce sales driver in two ways: It gives consumers reasons to shift spending from stores to the internet, and it stimulates incremental purchases that stem from impulse buying. Smartphones and tablets promote ecommerce by extending the shopping day and untethering consumers from the desktop or the store.

eMarketer forms its estimates of mcommerce sales, as well as its projections for the number of mobile shoppers and buyers, based on the analysis of estimates from other research firms, estimated mobile sales data from lead retailers, and weighing overall consumer shopping trends.

This forecast represents a slight decrease to estimates eMarketer released in January 2013, when mcommerce sales were predicted to total $24.66 billion last year and $38.40 billion in 2013—a result of lower-than-expected year-end reports for 2012. eMarketer’s outlook for mobile commerce remains robust, however, with higher growth rates predicted for later in the forecast period.

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