November 29, 2005, 12:00 AM

The newly named Cyber Monday lives up to its history with sales spikes

Just as Black Friday shopping in stores is much bigger than an average shopping day, so too is Cyber Monday shopping in online stores, a phenomenon that retailers have noted since the beginning of e-retailing but that no one had named until this year.

 

Who heard of Cyber Monday before yesterday? Not many people as the term was coined by the National Retail Federation/Shop.org this year to describe the phenomenon of online shopping that occurs on the Monday after Thanksgiving. But a Google search on the term shows 1.01 million instances of its appearing on the web. And it’s already being considered for inclusion in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written by users.

Just as “Black Friday” shopping in stores is much bigger than an average shopping day, so too is Cyber Monday shopping in online stores, a phenomenon that retailers have noted since the beginning of online shopping but that no one had named until this year. Visits to online retail sites on Monday increased 50% compared to a month ago and 20% compared to the previous Monday, Akamai Technologies Inc. reports.

But just as Black Friday is not the biggest shopping day offline, neither is Cyber Monday. Online retailers expect their peak day to be around Dec. 12.

The Akamai Net Usage Index for Retail, which provides an aggregate view of total visitors per minute to more than 200 global e-commerce sites, showed consistent growth throughout the day across North America on Monday. At 8 a.m. Eastern time, there were approximately 550,000 visitors per minute to the tracked sites; by noon, that number had grown to more than1 million per minute. It peaked at more than 1.8 million at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Akamai reports that during the past three months, Monday is the most popular day for online shopping, with a peak at 4 p.m. Eastern time of 1.3 million visitors per minute to the 200 sites.

Visa USA reports that Visa cardholders spent $505 million at online retailers on Monday, 9.5% higher than the previous high for the 2005 holiday shopping season, Nov. 15, when they spent $461 million. Monday’s volume was 26% higher than on the same day a year ago. “As expected, consumers flocked to the Internet on Monday to continue their holiday shopping,” Brad Nightengale, vice president of emerging products for Visa USA said.

In November, Visa cardholders spent $9.9 billion with an average ticket of $87.85.

In spite of the heavy traffic, online retailers in general were able to meet the demand, according to web site performance monitoring and management company Keynote Systems Inc. “Most of the top retail sites on the Keynote Ecommerce Web Transaction Performance Index performed close to their norms on November 28,” Keynote reported. “Over the weekend, the Keynote Ecommerce Web Transaction Performance Index continued to show a relatively high level of reliability with performance numbers just slightly above the norms but well within normal tolerance. Averages times for completing a search and buy transaction varied from 12 seconds during the day on Saturday to 11 seconds on Sunday. Reliability was above 95% on both days.”

Offline, retailers fared well with Thanksgiving week sales up 9.2% over the same week a year ago, reports ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate. Sales growth over the weekend, though, was virtually flat-up only 0.4% vs. a year ago-but the pace picked up as the weekend progressed, ShopperTrak reports. “Although initially this major shopping weekend didn`t appear to fare well compared to 2004, across-the-board discounting may have held back the pace of sales early in the weekend which then strengthened as door buster deals expired late Saturday and early Sunday,” ShopperTrak reported. Added Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak: "When the pace of discounting slowed late in the weekend, the industry began to see a slight upturn and looking at the posted dollar figures, it appears the consumer is still very willing to spend early in this shopping season.”

 

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