Shopping Season Wrap-Up: Sales Are Up, and Security Breaches Are Down

The 2014 holiday shopping season ended on a high note according to IBM's Digital Analytics Benchmark report, with overall sales reportedly up by about 14 percent this year. As Black Friday shopping data first indicated, mobile devices played a key role in the way consumers shopped, and the trend continued throughout the entirety of the shopping season. Mobile traffic accounted for 45 percent of all holiday Web traffic compared to just 6 percent back in 2010, and sales carried out on mobile devices made up about 23 percent of total online sales. Social media and cybersecurity have also become increasingly significant factors in determining how consumers shop online, and will continue to "shape e-commerce in 2015," Jay Henderson, IBM Smarter Commerce strategy director, says.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Pinterest have already demonstrated their effectiveness and reach by influencing online purchases indirectly, but moving forward, social networks may have a more direct and traceable impact on sales, Henderson predicts. When it comes to driving shoppers to make purchases on brands' respective e-commerce sites, Facebook referrals drove an average of $101.38 per order, while Pinterest referrals averaged $105.75 per order during the holiday season, IBM found. With the addition of features such as Facebook's new buy button, the social site is now likely to not only drive sales indirectly through marketing and social shares, but also facilitate immediate sales through its own site. "This is something we'll be seeing a lot more of in 2015," Henderson says.

In a separate end-of-year shopping study, IBM also found some "reassuring" data that applies to the cybersecurity space, according to Henderson. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the "two biggest shopping days" of the year, cyber attackers "surprisingly reduced their activity across industries," the findings state. The number of breaches from 2013's holiday shopping season dropped by more than 50 percent in 2014, according to the study. "This is an indication that brands are learning from past mistakes [and] are taking past breaches seriously," Henderson says, pointing to the slew of massive data breaches that took place at big-name companies including Target and Home Depot in 2014. "Now, data breaches are actually down, which suggests that retailers have put measures in place that are really working," he adds.

IBM's cybersecurity findings echo a recent Predictions report from Forrester, which revealed that over the past year, 53 percent of technology decision-makers at retail firms increased their security budgets from 2013 to 2014, which is a higher percentage than any other industry, including financial services, has seen, the report states. And this is only the beginning, report authors Stephanie Balaouras and Christopher McClean say. "We feel that retail spend will increase again in 2015 because the industry is only now coming to grips with the scale and cost of the Target breach," the analysts wrote.

Looking ahead to e-commerce in 2015, IBM predicts that many of 2014's trends, including the growth of mobile and social as well as an emphasis on cybersecurity, will become amplified. Consumers should also expect deals and promotions to be less centered around specific holidays or shopping days, but be more "spread out" and long lasting, Henderson says.

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