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IBM: Q4 online sales up 10.3%

BY Dan Berthiaume

Armonk, N.Y. — Overall fourth quarter online sales were up 10.3% year-over-year. The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark indicates that soaring mobile traffic and sales were one of several key drivers.

Mobile traffic accounted for nearly 35% of all online traffic, up 40% compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. Mobile sales also remained strong, reaching 16.6% of all online sales, up more than 46% from the same period last year.

Smartphones drove 21.3% of all online traffic, nearly double that of tablets at 12.8%, making it the browsing device of choice. When it comes to making the sale, tablets drove 11.5% of all online sales, more than twice that of smartphones, which accounted for 5%. Tablet users also averaged $118.09 per order, versus smartphone users, who averaged $104.72 per order.

As a percentage of total online sales, iOS was almost five times higher than Android, driving 12.7% compared to 2.6% for Android. On average, iOS users spent $115.42 per order, nearly 40% higher than Android users, who spent $83.56 per order. iOS also led as a component of overall traffic with 22.1% compared to 10.6% for Android.

In terms of social retailing, shoppers referred from Facebook averaged $60.48 per order, compared to Pinterest referrals, which drove $109.93 per order. However, Facebook referrals converted sales at more than three and a half times the rate of Pinterest referrals, perhaps indicating stronger confidence in network recommendations.

Supporting these overall trends, the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark also reported real-time trends across a number of retail subcategories throughout the fourth quarter. Fourth quarter department store online sales grew by 62.8% from 2012, with mobile sales growing by 49.6% year-over-year. Fourth quarter online sales grew by 14.7% from 2012, with mobile sales growing by 81.7% year-over-year. Fourth quarter online sales grew by more than 46.4% from 2012, with mobile sales growing by 38% year-over-year. Fourth quarter online sales grew by 10.2% from 2012, with mobile sales growing by 54.5% year-over-year.

These results were driven in part by the record online sales IBM observed during Thanksgiving (up 19.7% YoY), Black Friday (up 19% YoY) and Cyber Monday (up 20.6% YoY).

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Consumer confidence improves in Dec.

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York — U.S. consumer confidence, which decreased in November 2013, rebounded the following month, according to The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which now stands at 78.1 (1985=100), up from 72 in November.

The Present Situation Index increased to 76.2 from 73.5. The Expectations Index increased to 79.4 from 71.1 the prior month. Consumers’ appraisal of overall current conditions improved. Those claiming business conditions are “good” edged down to 19.6% from 20.4%, however, those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased to 22.6% from 24.6%. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was also more upbeat. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” ticked up to 12.2% from 12.0%, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” decreased to 32.5% from 34.1%.

Consumers’ expectations, which had decreased in November, improved in December. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 17.2% from 16.7%, and those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased to 14% from 16.1%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was considerably more optimistic. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased sharply to 17.1% from 13.1%, while those anticipating fewer jobs decreased to 19.0% from 21.4%. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase declined to 13.9% from 15.3%, while those expecting a decrease in their incomes declined to 14% from 15.5%.

“Consumer confidence rebounded in December and is now close to pre-government shutdown levels (September 2013, 80.2),” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Sentiment regarding current conditions increased to a five-and-a-half year high (April 2008, 81.9), with consumers attributing the improvement to more favorable economic and labor market conditions. Looking ahead, consumers expressed a greater degree of confidence in future economic and job prospects, but were moderately more pessimistic about their earning prospects. Despite the many challenges throughout 2013, consumers are in better spirits today than when the year began.”

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for the Conference Board by Nielsen. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was Dec. 17.

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Walmart, Walgreens fill public-exchange prescriptions at no upfront cost

BY Dan Berthiaume

Bentonville, Ark. — Through the end of January 2014, customers at Walmart and Walgreens who have signed up for public health exchanges but have not yet received their plan identification information from their insurance providers will be able to fill up to a 30-day supply of prescriptions with no upfront cost.

"At Walmart, we are committed to offering our customers affordable ways to stay healthy, including access to their medications,” said John Agwunobi, senior VP and president, health & wellness, Walmart U.S. "Our pharmacists will also provide assistance in verifying enrollment and will be available to help answer questions about the new insurance plans."

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