Super Bowl Sunday wasn't the killer mobile conversion day I thought it would be. But let's just say mobile orders did better than the Atlanta Flacons.

Super Bowl Spread

Just as I was sure that the Atlanta Falcons would surprise a lot of people by beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, I was certain that Super Bowl Sunday would provide us with a fascinating snapshot at the rise of mobile as a tool for e-commerce buying.

But that’s why they play the games — and why we check the data.

As the world knows by now, the only surprise the Atlanta Falcons offered sports fans was the unprecedented way they blew a 25-point third-quarter lead in the biggest game on Earth.

And my mobile-mania theory? I can say it wasn’t crushed as devastatingly as the Falcons, but it didn’t really pan out the way I thought it would either.

My plan: take a look at BloomReach e-commerce data for a month of Sundays (give or take) and Super Bowl Sunday to see how consumer habits change on the day of the big game.

Mobile wins on any given Sunday

It turns out, they don’t, really. True, smartphones accounted for 28 percent of online orders on Super Bowl Sunday, according to data across BloomReach e-commerce customers. And that is seven percentage points higher than the phone’s average for the year so far. But it’s only slightly higher than smartphones’ 24 percent share of conversions on 2017 Sundays without “Super Bowl” in their names.

chart showing percentage of e-commerce purchases by device

If you broaden the definition of “mobile” to include tablets, then the category accounted for 43 percent of conversions on Super Bowl Sunday, compared to an average of 36 percent of conversions on 2017 Sundays and an average 30 percent of daily conversions for the year so far.

And so maybe there is an argument that Super Bowl Sunday is a mobile day. You could certainly make the argument that mobile is a big deal on Sundays, perhaps because it’s a day when people are on the move.

On average, smartphones captured 25 percent of orders on Sundays so far in 2017. That’s four percentage points higher than the daily average. Add in tablets and mobile is at 37 percent of conversions on Sundays, compared to the 30 percent daily average.

That said, I went into the big game pretty certain that mobile conversions would see a fairly significant bump, given the nature of Super Bowl Sunday. The day is essentially a holiday — a day when family and friends gather for the express purpose of eating, drinking, watching the game and the halftime show and commercials that break up the action.

I think it’s fair to say most gatherings include people who have varying degrees of interest in the game itself. Some may become antsy and in search of distraction. In fact, the day sounds to me a lot like Thanksgiving, which has become a big shopping day and a big mobile day.

No compelling reason to buy on Super Bowl Sunday

OK, I’ll start with the obvious: The Super Bowl isn’t played a month before Christmas and so unlike Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl isn’t in the midst of the biggest shopping season of the year. There simply isn’t the same motivation to shop.

Nonetheless, I figured on Super Sunday, members of the captive audience would to a greater extent turn to their phones during slow periods of the game, during commercials and perhaps during lulls in the pre-game conversation.

Maybe a better way to look at mobile and Super Bowl LI, though, is to compare it to Super Bowl L a year ago. And by that count, mobile is gaining on Super Bowl Sunday.

A similar look at data across BloomReach e-commerce customers shows that last February, smartphones accounted for 22 percent of conversions on Super Bowl Sunday. Throw in tablets and mobile accounted for 36 percent of orders.

This year’s higher numbers are not necessarily a surprise given the rapid rate at which mobile visits and conversions are rising in the online world. But the steady increase is a strong sign that retailers need to continue working on improving their mobile experiences to keep up with customers’ evolving habits.

I’d also say it’s a good bet that, that mobile figure will be considerably higher on Super Bowl Sunday 2018. Then again, maybe I should just lay off the predictions and wait for the data.

Photo of Super Bowl spread by switz1873 published under Creative Commons license.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.