November 25, 2011, 12:38 PM

E-commerce shines on Black Friday

E-retail sales were up 24% yesterday over Black Friday 2010, according to IBM Benchmark.

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After a blockbuster Thanksgiving Day when they had little competition from bricks-and-mortar stores, online retailers continue to register strong results today, a day often referred to as Black Friday.

Sales at major online retailers were up 24.3% over the Friday after Thanksgiving last year, according to IBM Benchmark, a survey of the web sites of some 500 major U.S. online retailers. That’s in line with the 20% year-over-year increase IBM was reporting at mid-day yesterday; but online sales soared in the evening, and full-day online Thanksgiving sales ended up 39.3%  over the holiday last year.

Sales were also strong at bricks-and-mortar stores, reports ShopperTrak, which monitors traffic and sales at major malls and retail chains. Total Black Friday retail sales rose 6.6% year over year to $11.40 billion, while foot traffic increased 5.1%. “Despite our sluggish economy, shoppers proved they are looking for value and ready to buy if given a good customer experience," says ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

Mobile devices remain a much bigger part of online shopping this year, IBM says. Shoppers made 9.8% of their online purchases from mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers, up from 3.2% last year on the same day. Mobile traffic represented 14.3% of visits to major e-retail sites, a hefty increase from 5.6% on Black Friday 2010, IBM says.

Apple and Android devices account for virtually all of the mobile shopping activity, IBM says. 5.4% of traffic to retail web sites Friday came came from Apple iPhones, 4.8% from Apple iPads and 4.1% from devices that use Google's Android software. That leaves less than 1% of traffic to retail sites coming from all other mobile devices. Shoppers using iPad converted at a much higher rate than other mobile consumers, 4.6% vs. 2.8% for users of all other mobile devices.

Online sales increased 23% on Black Friday compared with sales for the same sellers on the same day last year for some 150 retail clients of Mercent Corp., which helps retailers sell online through marketplaces and comparison shopping engines. On Thanksgiving Day, same-seller sales were up 18% overall. Sales on Amazon grew even faster for Mercent clients: 28% on Thanksgiving Day and an estimated 27% on Black Friday.

Mercent CEO Eric Best says smaller online merchants were experiencing higher growth rates for sales than were their larger competitors. Those smaller merchants were likely helped by aggressive promotions and also by shoppers becoming more comfortable with e-commerce in general, which makes them more trusting of smaller merchants. “Up and coming e-commerce merchants are able to capitalize on the shift from offline to online,” he says.

Online marketing firm ChannelAdvisor reports a 20% year-over-year increase in sales for its clients on Friday. Same-seller sales increased 50% on Amazon and 15% on eBay. For clients whose search marketing programs ChannelAdvisor manages, sales were up 22% over Black Friday last year; but sales from comparison shopping engines for ChannelAdvisor clients were down 1% from last year.

 

Many shoppers were out at the mall Friday, drawn by the massive advertising of Black Friday deals by retail chains. Millions of consumers were visiting online retail sites late Thursday night, some shopping but others likely checking out the deals retailers would be offering in stores.

Page views peaked Thanksgiving night at 1.845 million page views per minute, according to Akamai Technologies Inc., operator of a content delivery network for web sites that monitors the visits by North American consumers to the sites of 270 global retailers. That was down to about 1.25 million page views per minute as of early afternoon Friay, a sign many shoppers have gotten out of the house to do at least some of their holiday buying.

The quickest loading e-commerce sites between 8 p.m. Eastern time Thursday and 8 a.m. Eastern time Friday morning were JCP.com, operated by J.C. Penney Co. Inc., No. 20 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Dell.com. operated by Dell Inc., No. 4; and Apple.com, operated by Apple Inc., No. 3, according to according to web site performance firm Compuware Gomez.

Its Compuware Gomez Performance Index also show that the best-performing mobile sites during that same period were sites operated by Sears Holdings Corp., No. 7; Best Buy Co.,  No. 11; and Amazon.com Inc., No. 1.

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