November 26, 2012, 5:01 PM

Cyber Monday sales sizzle

Online sales Monday wound up 30% ahead of last year, IBM reports.

Lead Photo

Consumers apparently didn’t quite check everything off their holiday shopping lists over the long holiday weekend. E-retail sales Monday were up 30.3% from the Monday after Thanksgiving last year, according to IBM.

While not providing a dollar estimate of sales, IBM called Monday, a day often called Cyber Monday because it is traditionally a big online shopping day, the biggest day ever for e-commerce.

“Cyber Monday was not only the pinnacle of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend but when the cash register closed it officially became the biggest online shopping day ever,” says Jay Henderson, strategy director, IBM Smarter Commerce.

Adobe Systems also called it a record day, estimating online sales hit $1.98 billion, just 1% off from the digital marketing technology firm's pre-Monday prediction of $2 billion in web retail sales, and a 17% increase from Cyber Monday 2011. That estimate is based on data from retailer clients that alone accounted for more than $1 billion in online sales Monday. In advance of Cyber Monday, comScore Inc. predicted online retail sales would hit $1.5 billion, and that it would be the biggest online shopping day ever. ComScore will report its Cyber Monday sales estimate Wednesday.The National Retail Federation predicted more than 129 million consumers would shop online Monday.

IBM, drawing on data from retailer clients, reported today the following about Monday's online sales:

  • Shopping peaked at 11:25 a.m. Eastern time, and remained strong after consumers got home from work.
  • More than 18% of traffic to retailer web sites came from smartphones and tablets, a 70% increase over Cyber Monday 2011, and mobile devices accounted for nearly 13% of sales.
  • The iPad accounted for more than 7% of traffic to e-retail sites, followed by the iPhone at 6.9% and Android devices at 4.5%. The iPad accounted for 90.5% of traffic from tablets, followed by Amazon Kindle at 2.6%, Samsung Galazy at 2% and Barnes and Noble Nook at 0.6%.
  • Mobile traffic broke down as follows: 58.1% from smartphones, 41.9% from tablets.
  • The average online ticket dropped 6.6% from Friday to $185.12, but the number of items increased 14.1% to an average of 8.34. Consumers "shopped with greater frequencyto take aadvantage of retailer deals as well as free shipping," IBM reported. Friday, often called Black Friday, is traditionally a big day for sales in stores and shopping malls, although it's increasingly a major online shopping day as well.
  • Shoppers coming from such online social networks as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube accounted for .41% of sales Monday, a decrease of 26% from Cyber Monday 2011.

Adobe reported higher average tickets and conversion rates for retail chains that sell online versus their web-only rivals.The average web sale was $146 for bricks-and-mortar retailers that sell online compared with $137 for retailers that only sell via the web. The conversion rate for the e-commerce sites of retail chains was 4.7% versus 3.9% for web-only retailers, and the average for all retailers was 4.3%, Adobe says.

Cyber Monday is even spreading to Europe, noted Tamara Gaffney, senior marketing manager for Adobe’s Digital Index, in a blog post. "We’re notic­ing the Cyber Monday effect slowly spread­ing to other parts of the world where they don’t cel­e­brate the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day that typ­i­cally serves as the shot­gun start for US hol­i­day shop­ping to begin," Gaffney wrote. "In Europe, Cyber Mon­day this year rep­re­sented an 8% growth in online sales, still small in com­par­i­son to the United States, but gain­ing trac­tion as U.S.-based global retail­ers expand their pro­mo­tional strate­gies around the world.

With so many consumers shopping, intense price competition raged online yesterday, ramping up a bit even from the weekend as some retailers tweaked their money-saving deals to make them just a bit stronger for Cyber Monday. EBags Inc. and Macy’s Inc., for example, maintained the same percentage-off offers they featured from the weekend, but lowered the minimum purchase price to receive free shipping. For example, Macy’s lowered its free shipping minimum from $99 to $75 today. Macy’s is No. 14 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. EBags is No. 103.

Other e-retailers restricted their best offers to consumers on their e-mail distribution lists. Lamps Plus, for example, sent subscribers an invitation code to enter on the web site to get otherwise unadvertised deals. Benefit Cosmetics made a similar move, advertising via e-mail a free gift with purchase offer that was unadvertised on its e-commerce site. Lamps Plus is No. 178 in the Top 500 Guide.

Monday followed a very strong sales weekend for e-retailers. Sales for the 50 large e-retailers tracked by Chase Holiday Pulse were up 37.9% Saturday and Sunday from the comparable weekend a year ago, while store sales were up 3%.

Adobe Systems predicted e-retail sales would reach $2 billion Monday, 18% over its estimate for Cyber Monday last year. However, stronger-then-expected sales on Friday—Adobe estimates Black Friday online sales were up 18%, six percentage points more than its prediction—could take some sales from Monday, Adobe's Gaffney wrote in a blog post yesterday.

Pricing analyses provide insight into how e-retailers moved to price out stores, and each other, over the holiday. Web retailers changed their prices to match or beat prices stores offered as part of their Black Friday promotions, and did so in time to capture sales ahead of stores. A survey of activity conducted by price comparison site Decide.com shows that e-retailers such as Amazon.com and Buy.com dropped their prices on products like Apple TV to beat (Buy.com) or match (Amazon.com) the Black Friday price offered at Best Buy.  Amazon dropped the price on Wednesday and Buy.com dropped it on Thanksgiving. Best Buy’s price for Apple TV wasn’t available until Friday. When BestBuy.com made available a Garmin navigation device for $99.99 just before midnight Nov. 21, Amazon dropped its price to match about 40 minutes later and Newegg.com followed with the same price 16 minutes later.

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