Nearly half of time spent on e-retail occurs on a smartphone or tablet, comScore says.

Smartphones and tablets are greatly changing the way consumers interact with online retail sites. For example, the amount of time consumers spent with online retail jumped 104% to 34.9 billion minutes in February 2013 compared with 17.1 billion minutes in February 2010, comScore Inc. finds in its new report, “State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy, Q1 2013.”

The vast majority of the increase came from mobile devices. Time spent with online retail on smartphones grew a whopping 385% from 2.7 billion minutes to 12.9 billion minutes. The tablet market didn’t even exist in February 2010, just prior to the introduction of the iPad. Consumers spent 5.0 billion minutes with online retail on tablets in February 2013, comScore finds.

In March 2013, 52% of time spent with online retail was on a desktop, 34% a smartphone and 14% a tablet, comScore says.

In the U.S., there are 137 million smartphone users and 60 million tablet users, comScore says.

Smartphones and tablets are bringing more people to the online retail party. The average top 50 retailer extends its desktop audience by 45% with mobile devices, comScore says. ComScore measures online retail visitors by desktop-only, desktop and mobile, and mobile-only. So a typical retailer with 10 million desktop visitors today has 4.5 million mobile-only visitors, comScore says.


In the new report, comScore breaks down traffic for eBay Inc. In March 2013, eBay had 48.8 million desktop-only unique visitors, 22.2 million desktop and mobile visitors, and 20.7 million mobile-only visitors, comScore reports. EBay has extended its desktop audience by 42.4% with mobile devices.

As a result of all of this mobile activity, smartphones and tablets are having a sizable impact on the bottom line in retail. Mobile sales hit $5.9 billion in Q1 2013, nearly 11% of total web sales of $56.0 billion, comScore says. In the first quarter, total U.S. retail sales grew 1% year over year, web sales grew 13% and mobile sales grew 31%, comScore says.

Mobile commerce is growing far faster than the web and the retail industry as a whole in part because it’s easier to grow at higher percentages from a small base, says Andrew Lipsman, vice president of industry analysis at comScore.

“But what is really fueling mobile commerce growth is the level of adoption and activity happening with these devices,” Lipsman says. “It’s one thing to get to a point where consumers are adopting mobile devices. They don’t start off as heavy users. It’s after a couple years of owning mobile devices where you get more tenured users who are doing a lot more on their devices. Consumption is really exploding on mobile, and that’s the wind at the sails.”

ComScore also found in Q1 2013 that the average amount spent per desktop buyer was $274, per smartphone buyer $139 and per tablet buyer $91. Conventional wisdom says tablet shoppers buy more than smartphone shoppers. While comScore does say that tablet shoppers are more likely to purchase than smartphone shoppers, the firm says showrooming is likely one factor driving the average amount spent higher for smartphone buyers. Showrooming is when a consumer uses her smartphone in a store to compare prices, physically examining a product in the store but buying the product via mobile or later on a desktop.


“Smartphones are used for showrooming, not tablets, and people tend to showroom for high-ticket items,” Lipsman says. “You can see where people might not prefer to transact over a smartphone because of the experience, but when they do transact, they may be showrooming and the purchase is for a higher amount.”

The percentage of total web sales going to mobile varies by category. Event tickets has the strongest mobile showing at 22%, comScore finds. Home and garden comes in at 12%, apparel and accessories and consumer electronics both 11%, furniture and appliances 8%, and computer hardware 4%.