November 30, 2010, 5:26 PM

A hot start to the holiday season

(Page 2 of 2) also had its biggest sales day in the company’s history on Monday, says Jeff Wisot,’s vice president of marketing.  The retailer’s sales increased 48%, driven in large part by growth in the retailer’s marketplace. Throughout the five-day window from Thanksgiving to Monday, marketplace sales eclipsed direct sales.

“That’s extremely exciting,” says Wisot. “Not only because that growth is boosting our overall numbers, but also because it will allow us to help others when we begin offering our white-label marketplace to other retailers.” told Internet Retailer in July that it plans to allow retailers to sell all or some of marketplace’s SKUs on their own sites before the end of the year.

Wisot says the growth is spurred by Rakuten-influenced changes, such as its 45-day return policy and its super points rewards program. Rakuten bought earlier this year for $250 million.

Even more crucial have been changes that have enabled the retailer to more effectively spend marketing dollars. Using technology that analyzes consumer holiday shopping behavior throughout every hour of the day, for instance, has allowed to bid more on keywords when consumers are more likely to buy, says Wisot.

“By being smarter about how we operate, we actually decreased our marketing spend for the weekend,” says Wisot.

Monday also proved to be the biggest sale day for GSI Commerce e-retail clients. The provider of e-commerce technology and services says sales peaked later in the evening as shoppers raced the midnight deadline to catch sale prices. 967 orders were place in its peak minute at 10:28 p.m. Eastern time, up 23% from the peak Cyber Monday minute last year.

An influx of traffic led to a sales boom for over the five-day window, says James Keller, the company’s chief marketing officer. On Friday alone, the site attracted more than 500,000 unique visitors, a 100% jump from 250,000 a year ago. And on Monday traffic rose 75% to more than 700,000 unique visitors from 400,000 a year ago. The result was strong growth in each of the retailer’s key benchmarks, such as frequency of purchases and average order value, he says.

The retailer’s growth was largely driven by its efforts to increase selection on the site. The retailer added 100 new brands for the holidays, along with new categories such as wallets and sunglasses.

By giving consumers more of what they’re looking for, they’re returning to the site, he says. In fact, 65% of the retailer’s sales over the five days were repeat customers. That trend is what is leading Keller to predict the retailer will comfortably have its 11th straight year of double-digit growth.

Online sales also got a boost from consumers shopping on their mobile phones. The Coremetrics report shows 3.9% of traffic to retail web sites came from mobile device on Cyber Monday and 5.6% on Black Friday, compared with a miniscule range of 0.1% to 0.2% a year ago, says Squire, of Coremetrics. He attributes the increase largely to the widespread availability of faster access to the Internet via mobile devices and the fact that many mobile shoppers can now access commerce sites optimized for mobile phones.

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