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Smartphones key mobile growth

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Shoppers tapping away at smartphones played a big role in ringing up a 171 percent increase in holiday sales via mobile websites developed and tracked by Branding Brand.

The South Side-based mobile commerce company monitored 84 retail sites, compared the latest numbers to holiday 2011 and concluded the results show an “explosion in mobile as a channel,” said Chris Mason, CEO and co-founder.

It looked at 35 days, from the day before Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. American Eagle Outfitters, The Children's Place, Dick's Sporting Goods, Ralph Lauren and Sephora are among Branding Brand's clients.

Total sales for the holiday season rose 3 percent to $579.8 billion, the National Retail Federation said, with results falling short of the trade association's forecast of 4.1 percent growth. Online sales grew 11.1 percent. Sales were $58.7 million at the 84 mobile sites tracked by Branding Brand.

While mobile shopping remains a small slice of total sales, “it's something to pay a lot of attention to because it's growing so strong, so quickly,” retail expert Jeff Green of Jeff Green Partners LLC in Phoenix said Wednesday.

With retailers adding mobile sites and apps, “the landscape in shopping is going to continue to change rapidly” and probably more so for younger shoppers, he said, adding he isn't comfortable shopping via mobile device yet.

The retail federation's Shop.org predicted all online sales, from desktop as well as mobile computers, would grow 12 percent in November and December, but actual results weren't available.

Branding Brand said 30 percent more visitors to mobile sites it tracked bought something. On average, “There were 137 page views every second and 12 orders every minute” on the sites.

In all, 21 percent of traffic counted came from smartphones. Another 12 percent came from tablet computers, and traditional desktops and laptops accounted for the rest.

Busiest times: 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day for smartphone visits to the sites, as shoppers researched Black Friday deals, and 11 p.m. on Cyber Monday for revenue generated via Internet-connected phones.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or kleonard@tribweb.com.

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