Black Friday A Hit, But Not For Mobile Transactions


Maybe you weren’t fighting for your life on the grounds of a Wal-Mart last Friday. But neither did you whip out your mobile phone and shop like there was no tomorrow. According to data assembled today by ThreatMetrix, just 3 percent of Black Friday sales were transacted through mobile phones.

As interestingly, the bulk of those deals – 58% – were sewn up using Android-powered phones, according to ThreatMetrix. Meanwhile, iPhones represented roughly half as many deals at 32 percent and, in the no-surprise-at-all-category, Blackberry phones accounted for a measly 5.5 percent of the transactions.

ThreatMetrix knows plenty about who uses what to shop and when. The Los Gatos, Calif.,-based company stops online fraud by “fingerprinting” the devices used to commit it – and it has a long list of powerful customers whose transactions it screens, regardless of whether the transactions happen on mobile, PCs, laptops or tablets. (For the sake of its clients’ privacy, I’m not allowed to publish their names. Because I’ve done it in the past, I can tell you that Thomson Reuters, parent of peHUB, is among them.)

For more context, Alisdair Faulkner, ThreatMetrix’s chief products officer, says ThreatMetrix sees about “one-third of the volume of PayPal” —  a company that’s singing a very different song about mobile transaction volume, incidentally. Specifically, PayPal announced last week that its global mobile payment volume between Thanksgiving 2010 and this year was up 500 percent. Faulkner ascribes the news to a large percentage increase of a small amount of volume. “Maybe total [PayPal] volume last year was 100,000 transactions, and now it’s 500,000,” he says.

Faulkner says he was far more surprised by the mobile devices that people are using to shop. “For a long time, Android phones and iPhones were [running] neck and neck. Maybe [the growing difference] is because Android is making more smart phones more readily available to a larger population, or maybe it’s because the phones are reaching feature parity; I really don’t know,” says Faulkner.

Asked about whether ThreatMetrix detected much fraud over mobile devices on Friday, Faulkner tells me ThreatMetrix isn’t finished crunching the numbers just yet, but that as a general rule, detecting fraud over mobile is far different than detecting it over more traditional devices.

For one thing, fraud is harder to catch because the devices are different, so the amount of data used by those screening the transactions is different. Consumer behavior is meaningfully different when it comes to phone use, too. For example, a much larger percentage of mobile transactions are “intent purchases,” meaning people aren’t typically using their phones to browse and comparison shop. Instead, someone at an airport might have to book a last-minute flight on her phone after missing a scheduled connection.

Indeed, when eBay released its list of top mobile transaction purchases of 2010, cars and trucks were among its best-sellers. “It’s counterintuitive that you’d use a small device to make an enormous purchase but when you think about a marketplace where you’ve always got to be online to get the best deal, it makes sense that the more expensive the purchase, the more [attuned] you are to the auction,” says Faulkner.