Phones are becoming our primary shopping devices

This is what Thanksgiving will look like soon.
This is what Thanksgiving will look like soon.
Image: Reuters/Benoit Tessier
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For the first time ever, more people are expected to visit retailers’ websites on their smartphones than from their desktops during the year’s busiest shopping period.

Mobile traffic for the five-day shopping bonanza over Thanksgiving is expected to reach 56.9% of total traffic, up from 48.5% last year, according to predictions from IBM’s Watson.

Many shoppers don’t resort to buying anything after they spend time looking, perplexing retailers. But sales from mobile shoppers are also expected to rise to 36.1% of all online sales from 27% last year, IBM Watson trend predicts. Forrester estimates mobile to account for 35% of e-commerce this year, up from 29% a year ago.

Smartphones have gotten bigger, making it easier to see what’s on offer, and mobile wallets are facilitating easier transactions, AP noted. Retailers have improved their mobile apps and coupon offerings.

“It’s very convenient,” Seth Reineke, 25, an insurance worker from Iowa City, Iowa, told AP. “It allows me to keep track of time-sensitive sales without being tied to a computer or having to leave a holiday event or get-together.”

Retail sales are expected to be muted this season, with the National Retail Federation predicting a 3.7% increase in November and December, compared to 4.1% for the same period a year ago.

But the picture for online spending is brighter. Forrester predicts online sales to increase 11% to $95 billion, with mobile sales accounting for more of the total.

Some retailers are already way past the 50% tipping point. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, predicts that 75% of US traffic will come from mobile devices during the holiday season, up from 50% two years ago.

Mobile shopping may be good for avoiding life-threatening stampedes on Black Friday, and the fury generated by packed parking lots. But it also means more people will be glued to their phones for more of the day, which is not something to be thankful for.