Black Friday Mobile Conversions Finally Surpassed Desktop on Facebook

Shoppers make purchases on their phones quicker

Headshot of Marty Swant

Mobile commerce through Facebook continued its upward dominance of the 2016 holiday shopping season, beating out desktop conversions for the first time to account for 51 percent of all transactions.

According to research released this morning by Facebook, mobile transactions on Black Friday increased 55 percent year-over-year. For the entire holiday season, mobile accounted for 51 percent of all conversions through Facebook—a 10-point increase over 2015. (In fact, 38 percent of those surveyed said they wished they could do even more of their shopping on mobile.)

Much of that time spent shopping is when users are on the go. According to Facebook, mobile conversions rose by 21 percent between the commuting hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., surpassing desktop conversions around 5 p.m. The results also seem to confirm Facebook research released in July, which predicted shoppers should be spending more time shopping on their phones than in previous years.

"I'm going shopping has been replaced by 'I'm always shopping,'" said Ann Mack, Facebook's head of content and activation.

According to Facebook-commissioned research conducted by Kantar, 30 percent of those surveyed reported using Facebook to discover a new product in the past month, while one in three said Facebook and Instagram were good places to find out about new products and services.

While that's obviously good for Facebook to hear, it's also good news for marketers spending money on those platforms to promote their products and services.

Facebook data points out that those in the U.S. now use their mobile phones for 4.5 hours a day. Global Apple iPhone data shows that time is often split into as many as 80 separate moments in time. Mobile conversions also are faster than desktop, shoppers take 1.08 fewer days to buy something than they do on desktop.

"The experience of shopping on mobile hasn't quite matched the expectation of the mobile consumer," said Katie Duffy, content manager for Facebook Global Consumer Insights. "People are hacking their own shopping journeys and creating micro-efficiencies."

While the holidays might fly by for many and go dreadfully slow for others, Facebook IQ uncovered another time-bending trend. Users felt like time spent on mobile elapsed more quickly than they realized—even faster than on desktop. To determine this, Facebook shows two videos to research participants—one with neutral subject matter and another with something more entertaining—on both a smartphone and a desktop. Results showed people viewing a video on a smartphone on average felt like the videos were 33 percent shorter than on desktop.

"What that tells us is regardless of content, whether it's informational or humorous, people's perception of time moves faster on their smartphone," Duffy said.

But it's apparently not just perception that's moving faster. People are moving through their feeds faster as well. According to Facebook, users scroll through their mobile feed at an average rate of 1.7 seconds per piece of content compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop. But while they're consuming it faster, they're also apparently retaining it faster as well. According to a Fors-Marsh test, people can recall mobile news feed content after just .25 seconds of exposure.

"It speaks to how marketers should approach mobile in a very different way," Mack said. "They should lead with the brand up front (and) really appeal to people who are moving at a much faster pace."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.