Among the interesting research nuggets that Monetate uncovered in our most recent Ecommerce Quarterly (EQ) report was the revelation that Safari, not Chrome, is quickly approaching the venerable Internet Explorer when it comes to ecommerce market share. Even more telling, the EQ data shows that in Q2 2012—during traditional non-working hours (6 p.m.-6 a.m.)—the combination of mobile  and traditional Safari actually eclipsed IE in ecommerce market share by a slight margin.

Let’s take a look at the browser landscape to explain what’s happening and why.

A decade ago, IE was the undisputed champion of the browser wars, with a whopping 90% market share. Over the past few years, however, IE has been bleeding users as up-and-comers like Firefox and Chrome have gained a foothold in the market. But now we’re seeing Safari gaining steam, even surpassing IE in the overnight hours. Why?

It’s About How We (i)Shop

We’ve written before about “couch commerce“; how the consumer is increasingly using mobile and tablet devices to shop online from the comfort of their favorite couch or easy chair. As this trend has picked up, so has the dominance of the iPhone and iPad for mobile and tablet, respectively, with Safari serving as the out-of-the-box browser on both devices. But how does this explain the time differential?

Despite the consumerization of IT, the vast majority of American workers still use desktops and laptops as their primary IT tools at work. Since IE continues to reign supreme on traditional platforms running on Windows, when the consumer uses her lunch hour to jump on and buy a birthday gift, she will likely be browsing on some version of IE.

But by Night…

In the evening, the PC is sleeping and the laptop is in the work bag. It’s just the shopper and his iPad or iPhone, lounging at home, browsing, and/or shopping online as he catches up on his recorded TV shows. And in the overnight hours? Who among us hasn’t, in a fit of insomnia, grabbed the smartphone and started shopping for our dream car or a new pair of shoes? It’s a lot more convenient than firing up the laptop to browse.

Will the Trend Continue for Safari?

According to research firm IDC, Android devices made up a whopping 68.1% of all smartphone shipments in Q2 2012.  Will this impact Safari’s dominance? Q3 will be telling, as these Android devices come online and users exercise free will in choosing their preferred browser; we’ll likely see a decrease in Safari’s numbers. And we’ll be watching to see if Chrome, Firefox, or even Dolphin begin to encroach on Safari’s after-hours’ dominance.

Stay tuned for the next EQ, which comes out in October.

Marifran Manzo-Ritchie is the Director of Corporate Communications at Monetate. She has over 12 years of experience in helping companies create and share the messages that resonate with their target markets. In a previous life, Marifran worked as a radio news writer, producer, and occasional on-air talent. She is always trying to learn the Italian language and the piano.