November 30, 2013, 3:47 PM

E-retailers move confidently through the weekend

Web sales on Thursday and Friday were up close to 20% year over year.

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E-retailers across the United States are working extra hard this weekend as consumers flock online to shop for the holidays. Early details show consumers have shopping on their minds this weekend, leading to online sales growth of nearly 20% on Thursday and Friday. Many e-retailers today are extending the discounts they offered on Black Friday to push sales through the weekend.

Online sales were up 19.7% on Thanksgiving Day and up 18.9% on Friday, according to IBM Corp., based on data from about 800 IBM clients the company includes in its IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Survey. Department store e-retailers and apparel e-retailers will be particularly busy fulfilling orders in the coming days. IBM says online sales on Friday for department store retailers were up 61.4%, and ahead 50.4% for apparel e-retailers. Health and beauty e-retailers’ sales also exceeded the average, jumping 28% year over year. The average ticket for orders placed with department store e-retailers was $146.84, $123.31 for apparel e-retailers and $66.31 for health and beauty e-retailers on Friday. The average ticket across all e-retailers IBM tracks was $135.27, up 2.2% from Black Friday 2012.

Meanwhile, Mercent Corp. says its e-retailer clients selling on marketplace sites saw sales grow 40% on Thanksgiving and 35% on Friday. Mercent provides services that manage e-retailer feeds to marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Rakuten Shopping. Mercent clients selling through Amazon.com saw sales grow 26% on Thanksgiving; on Google Shopping, year-over-year growth was 70%. (Google introduced paid Product Listing Ads to Google Shopping last fall, contributing to the high growth.)

Search and traffic data shows that online consumers had shopping on the brain yesterday. Google Inc. says 18 of the 20 top trending searches yesterday were retail-related. The number one search topic was video game consoles, Google says, followed by tablets, Minecraft Legos and Ugg boots. Traffic to retail web sites peaked shortly after noon Central time. Akamai’s Net Usage Index says retail web sites in North America processed 9.3 million page views per minute at 12:05 p.m. From about 9 a.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday the average was roughly 5.25 million page views per minute at retail web sites, up 121% from normal levels, Akamai says.

The largest e-retailers appear to have weathered the surge in traffic reasonably well, according to Keynote Systems Inc., which is monitoring about a dozen of the e-retailers ranked among the top 20 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. The traffic slowed response times about 10% from their normal levels for the tracked e-retailers around 5 a.m. Central, and again around 9:30 a.m., and average response time for desktop web users was 15.8 seconds and 28.5 seconds for smartphone web users.

An exception yesterday was Sears.com and Kmart.com, both owned by Sears Holdings Corp., which experienced intermittent outages starting at about 12:15 p.m., right about when daily traffic peaked, according to Akamai stats. A Sears Holdings spokesman today confirmed the outages and says the issue was resolved and both are functioning properly today. “Sears and Kmart extended the sale and honored sale prices online for both Sears.com and Kmart.com through late last evening,” he says.

Numerous e-retailers are giving consumers extra time to nab Black Friday discounts and extending their Friday offers through Saturday, Sunday or even Monday. Staples, No. 2 in the Top 500 Guide, Musician’s Friend Inc., No. 50, and fruit e-retailer Hale Groves, No. 665 in the Second 500 Guide, are all making offers available through Sunday. Gilt Groupe, No. 54; TheRealReal, No. 554; and Macy’s, No. 12, are extending their Black Friday offers until midnight tonight. Overstock.com Inc., No. 31, is extending its offer of 12% off the total purchase price through Monday; the offer is available to Overstock e-mail subscribers. Flash sale e-retailer Gilt Groupe is promising shoppers 30% off with a coupon code; online consignment shop TheRealReal is offering 20% off with a coupon code; and Macy’s offers are on specific products, plus 15% off. Staples is offering a $10 off online orders of $50 or more, and $15 off in-store purchases of $100 or more. The online deal expires at midnight tonight, the in-store offer expires on Sunday. Musician’s Friend’s offer is on selected products, and Hale Groves is extending its buy one, get one free offer.

Retailers are also seeing more traffic and sales coming from consumers using mobile devices to shop this weekend. IBM says transactions taking place on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) accounted for 25.8% of sales on Thanksgiving and 21.8% of sales on Friday. Affiliate marketing and coupon site RetailMeNot says consumers launched its mobile app on Thanksgiving three times as much as on a normal day, and that it was among the top 10 free apps available on the iTunes and Google Play store during the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

More traffic is coming from smartphones, but more sales are coming from tablets. On Friday, smartphones accounted for 24.9% of web traffic to sites in IBM’s index, and 7.2% of sales. Tablets accounted for 14.2% of traffic and 14.4% of sales. The average order value from smartphones was $115.63 and $132.75 from tablets, IBM says. E-retailer eBags.com says mobile devices accounted for 30% of traffic through 1 p.m. Central Friday, up from 22% during the same time last year, and 18% of sales, up from 15% a year ago.

 

 

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