Holiday shoppers spent 20% more on Black Friday this year compared to last year, and several real trends emerged from an IBM study based on its Benchmark digital analytics package.

Additionally, IBM conducted a 1,200 person customer survey to see what people really wanted from the companies they shop with the most.

Smart Shoppers Need Consistent Message

For young shoppers especially, an app is a core requirement of a consistent message, the IBM survey found. The same group was also twice as likely to see a need for an online forum where other shoppers could talk about their preferred items and favorite brands.

Even after customers found their favorite items and bought them online, the post purchase experience was nearly as important, the survey found. If it was handled correctly, 75% of respondents said they would recommend the company as a result. Let's see what those shoppers actually bought this year during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bonanza.

Home Goods Lead Black Friday Sales

IBM focused on the apparel, department store, health and beauty and home goods sectors for its 2012 Holiday Benchmark Report, and it found mobile shopping in particular soared in 2012. Mobile sales for the industries measured were near 13%, almost a 100% increase from 2011 on Cyber Monday.

Sales of home goods went up by almost 30% on Black Friday in 2012, and people were both spending more and buying more items than in 2011. Customers appear even more savvy this year than last because while they appear to be finding what they want, they are doing so in less time and in fewer page views. 

Time on site and page views are common metrics, but when sales are up as much as this year, the fact that those are down has less of an impact. That trend held up for the entire report too, so it wasn't just for home goods. Overall, US retail experienced an over 100% increase in iPad traffic on Black Friday with sales peaking just before 1 p.m. EST.


Mobile shoppers and the second screen came through for several retail segments this year.

IBM called the online buying spree this year couch commerce. People are increasingly spending their Thanksgiving browsing online with an iPad, looking for deals, and scouting out products. For retailers, it highlights the importance of offering a consistent message across devices and increasingly, even in brick and mortar stores. Because so many smart shoppers are browsing online and then going to the store to buy items, any lack of continuity just seems sloppy. 

At least for the five segments measured by IBM this year, digital channels look to be fairly on message with their timing and strategy. 

Social Takes a Hit on Cyber Monday

One of the less promising trends was the shrinking social media impact on Cyber Monday. Social referrals accounted for only about one half of a percent of sales, but even that was down 26% from 2011. That could be a function of the industries measured, however. It could also mean people are simply not shopping as much from sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

While the iPad was the most widely used device for online shopping, more people actually used their smartphones. About 60% of shoppers surfed with a phone while 40% used an iPad. iPad users likely spent more time overall on their devices compared to smartphones, and that could account for the disparity in traffic.

IBM doesn't release information on specific retailers for this report, but it did say there were at least five retailers in each segment. That means at least 20 retailers were included in this report, although the data is anonymous and aggregated.