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IBM has released its Christmas 2012 online shopping report for the UK, showing that the season was the 'strongest ever' for e-retailers, and that the British have become a nation of online shoppers who spend an average of £100 per transaction, with a particular focus on mobile shopping. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The British consumer increasingly used mobile devices to shop during the Christmas period, with iPad usage reaching its peak in online traffic to retail sites on Christmas Day.

The UK online retail sector delivered 16.4% sales growth in December 2012 compared to the same period in 2011. Boxing Day had the strongest percentage increase with sales being up 45% on 2011's figures, following a strong November in which online retail sales were up 13.7% over the previous year.

The IBM Benchmark Christmas season report also revealed several noteworthy trends:

  • Mondays still dominate
    Monday November 26 was a big online shopping day, and the following two Mondays in December almost tied as the two largest online shopping day, as was the case in 2011.
  • Mobile traffic rising
    Some 24.2% of all online sessions on a retailer's site were initiated from a mobile device in December 2012, hitting a record high of 33.6% on Christmas Day.
  • Mobile sales rising
    The percentage of sales made through mobile devices reached 20.3% in December 2012, and almost 30% on Christmas Day itself.
  • The iPad Factor
    iPad traffic in November tripled year-on-year, growing more than 200%. This compares to other mobile traffic which also grew significantly with Android increasing by 30.2% and iPhone 35.3% in November.

Another reason for - and consequence of - the surge in use of mobiles is the emergence of 'showrooming' - the practice of viewing items in physical stores before buying them online. Another recent global survey of 26,000 shoppers by IBM found that nearly 50% of online purchases in the studied categories resulted from showrooming. It also found that 35% of shoppers are considering options for buying through a variety of methods beyond just the shop in the near future - a potential quadruple jump from the 9% that are ready to buy online now.

"The report suggests that 2012 was the year of the iPad, not only as a device for shopping and browsing retail websites but also as the gift of choice on Christmas Day, when iPad traffic hit its peak at 17%," said Chris Withers, UK head of Smarter Commerce for IBM. "This provides another clear reminder to retailers of the need to optimise browsing experiences for mobile devices."