December 1, 2009, 12:00 AM

Online retail sales surge on Monday as Thanksgiving boost continues

Among more than a dozen online retailers contacted by Internet Retailer, nearly all reported robust sales on Monday in a continuation of the heavy early holiday shopping that occurred over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Among more than a dozen online retailers contacted by Internet Retailer, nearly all reported robust sales on Monday in a continuation of the heavy early holiday shopping that occurred over the Thanksgiving weekend.

As on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, online shopping activity marked a strong start to the holiday shopping season on Monday, a day that has become known as Cyber Monday for marking the unofficial beginning of the online shopping season.

Retailers attributed the strong sales on Monday to a mixture of aggressive marketing campaigns and promotions along with the desire of many shoppers to find and take advantage of early deals. Some merchants also pointed to better merchandise assortments along with better timed promotions.

“We offered some cool and unique products that are not easily available and did a much better job this year at buying,” says Jack Kiefer, CEO of BabyAge.com, where Monday’s sales increased 25% year over year and average order value rose 8%.

“Last year we didn’t buy as much inventory because the manufacturers kept us in stock,” he says. “But this year, because a lot of the manufacturers were afraid of getting stuck with inventory, we had to buy earlier. We had deep inventory in lots of cool, differentiated products, and that contributed greatly to our success.” BabyAge.com is No. 280 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name).

He also says experimenting with promotions helped boost sales. BabyAge.com conducted members-only offers that generated conversation rates north of 10%.

“We experimented with different hours,” he explains. “Typically Monday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. are the most productive hours of the week. Early mornings are not as strong. So we ran a members-only promotion for early Monday morning that contributed to the mood of the day. It wasn’t just one thing that ruled the day, there was lots of blocking and tackling.”

BabyAge.com, No. 93 in the Top 500 Guide, saw its sales on Monday rise 56% over last year, setting an all-time sales record for the site, says Peter Cobb, co-founder and senior vice president of marketing. The site also saw traffic increase 30%.

Part of eBags success can be attributed to significant growth on its partner sites, says Cobb. For instance, the site’s business through Buy.com was up 528% over last year, due, in part, to special promotions the handbag, backpack, briefcase and suitcase retailer made available on Buy.com. “We had special deals that were special to Buy.com and they blew the doors off,” he says.

BabyAge.com, No. 33 in the Top 500 Guide, itself reported record numbers on Monday, calling it the biggest sales day in its history. “Today, Buy.com had both our highest orders in an hour and most visitors in an hour in the company’s history,” CEO Neel Grover said yesterday. “We’re continuing to see very strong sales in all categories, led by sales in consumer electronics and technology products. We continue to expect triple digit gains on our Marketplace platform that makes up over 30% of our site sales. Our largest growth continues to be in Jewelry, Apparel, Home and Outdoor, and Videos. We expect to see this trend continue for the remainder of the holidays.”

Sales for BabyAge.com, No.87 in the Top 500 Guide, were up 18% on Monday compared to a year ago. The site also saw its number of unique visitors increase 13.2% and its conversion rates increase from 4.8% to 6%, says Carol Steinberg, senior vice president of e-commerce, marketing and business development.

The growth was fueled by a multipronged approach to emphasize gift giving, she says. “We’re a general merchant, so in years past we were known for other things, this year we’ve focused on the holiday season.”

Part of that approach was the rollout of its ValueShipping option, in which shoppers are able to make multiple purchases throughout a single day but pay only one shipping fee for items sent to a single address. The fee is based on the most expensive shipping and handling cost of a purchased item. The site also added nearly 600 new web-only SKUs.

BabyAge.com, No. 257 in the Top 500 Guide, offered a promotion designed to boost sales of products at full price. And it succeeded, it says: sales were up, conversion was up and average order value was up.

The promotion offered members of Moosejaw’s rewards program five times the numbers of points for every purchase.

“It was a great promotion around our unique rewards program that was very different from all of the ‘Bunch of Stuff on Sale’ e-mails that are clogging everyone’s in-boxes,” says Eoin Comerford, vice president of marketing. “It brought an overwhelming response. The great thing is that we were able to sell our product at full price and get a bunch of new customers engaged in our rewards program. We find much greater repurchase rates for people that are actively involved in earning and redeeming rewards. And given that our rewards promotion allowed us to drive sales without discounting product, our margins were much better this year than last.”

Moosejaw is going to continue in this fashion with a Twitter and Facebook program called Moosejaw’s Twenty Days of Decent Giveaways. “That should drive even more customer engagement without resorting to widespread discounting,” Comerford adds.

BabyAge.com, Dreams Inc., which operates FansEdge.com and other sites dealing in sports merchandise and is No. 217 in the Top 500 Guide, said Monday set a new company online sales record for a single with $1.4 million in orders, up 105% from a year ago.

Monday was also the best sales day ever at BabyAge.com, No. 48 in the Top 500 Guide, as merchandise selection, pricing, cash-back offers and free shipping helped to drive sales, chief marketing officer David Lonczak says.

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