December 3, 2013, 10:59 AM

Cyber Monday shatters the online spending record

Shoppers spent an estimated $2.29 billion yesterday.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

To RibbedTee Designs founder and CEO Mike Schwarz, it seems like shoppers were geared up to buy online yesterday. The retailer, which operates RibbedTee.com, says that compared to last year’s Cyber Monday its conversion rates rose 53%, its number of transactions jumped 22% and its revenue soared 108%.

And that was all without the site featuring any special offers.

“That implies that people were waiting to make purchases on Cyber Monday in the hope of finding sales,” he says. “It also seems like they wanted to get all their online shopping done at once.”

The retailer wasn’t alone in seeing robust results yesterday. Online sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend grew 20.6% compared to last year’s Cyber Monday, according to IBM Corp., which bases its estimates on its analysis of purchases and activity on more than 800 client retail sites. Mobile sales helped drive that growth, as they accounted for 17% of total online sales yesterday.

“We continue to see a dramatic movement of the new digitally savvy consumer as Cyber Monday once again proved to be the star of this holiday shopping season,” says Jay Henderson, strategy director, IBM Smarter Commerce.

While consumers historically have done the bulk of their Cyber Monday shopping during work hours, that’s no longer the case, according to ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo. While sales ramped up around 11 a.m. Eastern time, they continued to hold steady well into evening hours, he says.

A different estimate, by Adobe Systems Inc., says that shoppers spent $2.29 billion online yesterday. That's a record, says Adobe, surpassing the previous record of $1.93 billion that was set on Friday. Adobe’s Adobe Digital Index is based on the vendor’s analysis of nearly 900 million visits to more than 2,000 retail web sites.

By Adobe’s estimates, mobile accounted for $419 million, or 18.3% of online sales. Tablets accounted for $290.8 million of that spending, or 12.7% of overall online sales.

Mobile commerce sales grew 80% compared to the Monday following Thanksgiving last year, Adobe says.

That growth may have been helped by retailers’ increasing use of push notifications. Retailers sent 77% push notifications—the pop-up alert messages from apps installed on mobile devices—between Thanksgiving and Monday than the daily average over the past two months, IBM says.

For some retailers, like Groupon Inc., consumers’ shift to mobile was even more pronounced. The daily-deal operator says that 55% of its North American transactions between Friday and Monday were completed on a mobile device. The retailer says that more mobile shoppers spending more online helped make Friday and Monday the two biggest days in North American sales in the company’s history. Groupon declined to share the percentage of its sales that stemmed from its sales of physical goods as opposed to discount vouchers.

Social networks also played a significant role driving shoppers to retailers’ sites, says Adobe. Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, shoppers who clicked directly from social networks to retailer web sites spent $148 million online.

Shoppers who clicked from Facebook were the most valuable, IBM says, as their average order value was $97.81. Pinterest users who clicked to a retailer web site bought $92.40 on average. The conversion rate for shoppers clicking from Facebook was roughly 38% higher than those who clicked from Pinterest. IBM did not provide the actual conversion rate.

While shoppers were eager to buy online yesterday, some retail web sites had problems. For instance, HP.com’s desktop site began experiencing performance issues at 6 a.m. Eastern time, as its transactions were about 30% slower than they were 24 hours earlier, according to Keynote Systems Inc. For some shoppers, the site’s home page was slow, but most of the slowdown occurred when shoppers used the site’s search box or during the checkout process. Keynote says it also found similar issues on the retailer’s smartphone site. HP could not be reached for immediate comment.

Similarly, CrateandBarrel.com and Karmaloop.com both had problems that kept shoppers from completing orders. CrateandBarrel.com extended its 15% off sale through tonight to make up for the problems, while Karmaloop offered a 30% discount for a two-hour window.

Karmaloop’s CEO Greg Selkoe wrote in an e-mail: “We have had mad site issues I have barely slept and worst part it is sucks to be letting people down...I have been on the frontlines with tech team figuring things out and we are on it but man it is stressful as hell I am used to working 24/7 but man not like this! And all this on Cyber Monday... the good thing is it is cause everyone is coming through to get stuff and we had to add way more servers etc... so we threw a bunch of new servers on and did a whole bunch o' other technical whatever and we are good to go!”

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