By Ingrid Lunden
ComScore Wednesday predicted that e-commerce sales would jump by 14% this holiday season compared to last year, to $42 billion, and some numbers just out from IBM's Benchmark service - an ongoing measurement that covers some 500 of the largest online retailers in the U.S. - indicate that consumers are getting a head start. Online sales, it says, are already up by 14.3% on last year, with the average order at $132.57. IBM also highlighted a particularly strong showing in mobile commerce.
As of noon Eastern time Thursday, IBM says the number of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer's site was at 26.5%, compared to 15.8% in 2011. The average number of pages viewed on a mobile device was 7.13.
Some argue that this is because mobile devices, in fact, have made the process of online shopping more socially acceptable during a group gathering like Thanksgiving. They are less anti-social, or perhaps more discreet.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a lot to do with that: IBM says the iPhone led as the most popular device driving retail shopping, with 9.6% of traffic coming from it. In a very close second place was the iPad, at 9.3%. IBM aggregates all Android devices together, and collectively they drove 7.3% of all traffic.
Mobile devices are also becoming better tools for actually buying things, too. IBM says that 14.1% of consumers have been using their mobile devices to make purchases, up four percentage points on last year.
Less strong, however, is so-called "social shopping" - that is, retail being driven via social network referrals on sites like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter, and Pinterest. This, so far, has only generated online sales of 0.2%, says IBM.
This might be down to two reasons: either social networks are not getting used by people to look for deals, or it's simply still too much of a nascent space for e-commerce referrals. Still, these results seem to run in contrast to studies from companies like Eventbrite. The online ticketing company makes a direct connection between ticket sales to events, and those events getting shared on social networks. It recently noted that "dollars per share" were at their highest point ever, at $3.23.
Overall, consumers both online and on mobile are ordering an average of 3.67 items, IBM says.
Given that most stores are closed on Thanksgiving, it is essentially more of an e-commerce day than Black Friday, the weekend, or Monday will be. Some big brands like Apple are already getting into the action internationally.
IBM Benchmark collects and analyzes data directly from the web sites of over 500 large U.S. retailers. That list, IBM tells me, includes close to 50% of the Internet Retailer Top 100, so it becomes a good barometer for what is happening across the larger online e-commerce landscape. It tracks more than a million transactions per day, analyzing terabytes of raw data in real-time, and it's issuing updates through today and Black Friday, and again on Monday.
Update: IBM put out another report at 3pm Eastern time Thursday, which noted another increase: Thanksgiving 2012 e-commerce spend is now 16.4% higher than 2011. All other metrics also increased very slightly. Retailers like eBay are predicting another jump in activity as consumers crawl to the sofa to go online after gorging themselves on food.