As introduced again yesterday, the first in our series of five predictions for 2012 involved mobile commerce. We boldly stated that by the end of this year, both mobile and iPad commerce would experience threefold growth. In 2011, mobile commerce sales in the U.S. reached $6.7 billion, a near 92 percent increase over the year before. In May of this year, mobile purchases, including tablet purchases, comprised nearly 8 percent of total online transactions–more than double last year’s figure of 3.9 percent. Experts estimate 2012’s total mobile/tablet sales will be just shy of double 2011’s figures, between $11 billion and $11.6 billion.


Given the iPad’s  68.2 percent market share (a figure that is much higher if you eliminate e-readers), tablet commerce is essentially iPad commerce, says L2’s Colin Gilbert, who led our 2012 Prestige 100® Mobile IQ study. Though neither Apple nor individual retailers release figures specific to iPad transactions, we do know that approximately 55 percent of mobile purchases originate from these devices (together with iPhones, Apple’s share of mobile transactions jumps to a staggering 84 percent). Also interesting to compare is the number of iPads purchased in the U.S. in 2011 and this year, so far. Last year, 40.5 million Apple tablets were sold across the country. The most popular quarter, with 15.4 million units sold, was the holiday-shopping quarter between September through December. So far in 2012, iPads have flown off the shelves at an even more impressive clip: through June 30th, 28.8 million were sold, nearly double the 15 million purchased by that date last year. Using the same quarterly breakdown as last year (i.e., 37 percent purchased before June 30, 63 percent purchased between June 30 and December 31st), Apple in on pace to sell almost 80 million iPads in 2012. And that is a conservative estimate that doesn’t take into account the tablet’s increasing popularity across all age groups and ethnic groups.


Total tablet penetration in the U.S. by the end of this year is set to reach 17.3 percent, a significant jump from last year’s figure of 10.8 percent. How many of these tablet users use their devices to buy things? Quite a few, according to new comScore research that puts the number at 39 percent for shippable items and almost twice that (63 percent) for digital purchases like music and digital content. This proves especially hopeful for luxury brands, as tablet owners tend to be their target audience: 55 percent earn at least $75K per year.


The bottom line is, more people are buying tablets than ever before, and more people are using them — increasingly as laptop substitutes — to make transactions. While it’s still too early to judge whether our prediction that mobile commerce and iPad commerce will triple by the end of December, there is evidence to support this might be the case. Next month’s release of the much anticipated iPhone 5 certainly doesn’t hurt our chances.


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