As Christmas nears, holiday shoppers appear to reach more frequently for their smartphones to get the job done. A look at the mobile tipping point.

Datacember phone shopping

Have you finished all your holiday shopping? Of course you haven’t finished all your holiday shopping. What fun would that be? The last-minute shopping is as much a tradition as visiting the mall Santa and hanging stockings by the chimney with care — or a lack of care, depending on the time you have to devote to that sort of thing. Anyway, we ask not to be mean, but to point out that shoppers and retailers are in the home stretch of the holiday shopping season. (Well, unless you count the rush of after-Christmas shopping.) Datacember has spotted tell-tale signs that procrastinators are beginning to step up their games, relying heavily on mobile. In fact, the weekend (which featured a couple of shopping “holidays’’) yielded an historic moment involving smartphones. You’ll have to read on. First some background: This past weekend checked Free Shipping Day (Friday Dec. 16) and Super Saturday (Friday Dec. 17) off our lists. The former is a day on which more than 1,200 retailers provide free shipping for orders (without imposing minimums) and promise to get the goods where they’re going by Christmas, Fortune explains. For its part, Super Saturday has displaced Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the year — at least for in-store shopping. The National Retail Federation projected that 156 million shoppers would possibly hit the stores on Super Saturday (the last full Saturday of shopping before Christmas). That’s far more than the 137.4 million the NRF said it expected to shop on Thanksgiving weekend.

156 million Americans are making plans to shop on #SuperSaturday. https://t.co/spVvJunMfB @ASerafinSmith #holiday16 pic.twitter.com/lFgD1Ixyxh

— NRFnews (@NRFnews) December 16, 2016 In a coming Datacember piece, we’ll take a look at how Free Shipping Day and Super Saturday affected online traffic and conversions. Today we’re too excited about our news to deal with such matters. A look at the weekend’s online shopping activity shows that mobile activity is picking up as Christmas nears and shopping time dwindles. In the past, we’ve looked at mobile activity as a sign of procrastination. The conclusion isn’t entirely fair, but it’s reasonable to think that when consumers are in a time crunch, they’re more likely to turn to mobile, particularly when it comes to making purchases. Let’s take a look at what happened over the Super Saturday weekend compared to the days leading up to it. We'll start with product views. You can see that mobile is more popular on weekends than during the rest of the week. Makes sense. Folks are on the move, out of their routines. But the smartphone is always there. Chart of product views on holiday shopping weekends You can see a rise in the percentage of daily product views conducted on smartphones on both weekends on the chart above. You can also note that the weekend of Dec. 17 and 18 shows slightly higher mobile use as Christmas draws nearer. The difference is slight — the percentage of product views on smartphones hovers around 31 percent on the first weekend above. On the second weekend the number is 33 percent. A similar weekend pattern played out with conversions, which should be encouraging for retailers. Mobile conversions have been a struggle for many retailers. But it’s clear consumers will buy on smartphones when it’s in their interest. Retailers need to make it in consumers interest. About 28 percent of daily conversions were conducted on smartphones on the weekend before Christmas. The previous weekend featured a Saturday with 27 percent of conversions on smartphones and a Sunday with 24 percent on phones. Chart of Conversions on the last two weekends of holiday shopping In fact, throw in tablets, and mobile conversions hit 40 percent on Dec. 17 and 18, compared to 38 and 36 percent on the previous Saturday and Sunday respectively. Things get really interesting when we examine site visits and the devices consumers used to visit those sites. As you can see, site visits passed a tipping point: More consumers used smartphones to visit e-commerce sites than used desktops on the weekend before Christmas. Chart of site visits by device on last two weekends of holiday shopping season If you look at mobile overall (add tablet and smartphone), 55 percent of shoppers visited sites via mobile on Dec. 17 and 56 percent visited with a mobile device on Dec. 18. There is a lesson in the numbers for retailers — a lesson they are not hearing for the first time. Consumers are continuing to more strongly embrace mobile devices. Smartphones particularly have become the shopping tool of choice. But while mobile conversions are increasing, they still lag, given the numbers of those browsing and otherwise researching on mobile. We’ll state the obvious, not to be annoying, but to be helpful: If more than half of your visitors are coming to your site using a mobile device, it would be wise to take the steps you need to take to make converting on a mobile device as easy as possible. Charts based on a relevant subset of BloomReach customer data. Photo of iPhone and apps by Jason Howie, published under Creative Commons license. Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.