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Cyber Monday Racks Up Impressive Gains

Cyber Monday Racks Up Impressive Gains

So far, so good for e-commerce this holiday season. Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw robust sales with surprising gains over last year's performance. Whether consumers will continue to spend beyond expectations, however, is questionable, according to IBM's John Squire. "The question is, will retailers still offer big promotions, and will consumers still have enough cash in their wallets to make those purchases?"

By Erika Morphy
11/29/11 9:28 AM PT

Online sales for Cyber Monday increased 33 percent from the same day last year, according to IBM's Cyber Monday Benchmark. The growth surpassed that of another banner day for e-commerce, Black Friday, which saw an increase of 29.3 percent in 2011 online sales compared with 2010's performance.

"We expected the holiday season to be good this year," John Squire, chief strategy officer with IBM Smarter Commerce, told the E-Commerce Times. "We forecasted November online sales would be up 15 percent this year compared to November 2010. Clearly, though, we were too conservative in our estimates. We never expected Thanksgiving or Black Friday to be this good."

On Black Friday alone, US$800 million in online spending occurred, for a 20 percent increase over last year's day after Thanksgiving.

The extent of consumers' willingness to spend was unexpected, Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber, told the E-Commerce Times.

"PriceGrabber experienced an 18 percent increase in site activity year-over-year on Sunday, Nov. 27, and based on this, projected around a 15 percent increase on Cyber Monday," he said. "This was certainly higher than we had anticipated given the economic climate of the past several holiday seasons."

Higher Order Value, More Traffic

Other statistical tidbits from Cyber Monday point to robust sales as well. The average order value rose to $198.26 from $193.24, for an increase of 2.6 percent, according to IBM.

There were high increases in traffic in many categories on Cyber Monday eve, PriceGrabber noted, including a 26 percent increase in electronics and a 20 percent rise for computers. Traffic for clothing was up 13 percent; sporting goods, 32 percent; and video games an eye-popping 56 percent.

The popularity of big ticket, higher price-point items was surprising, PriceGrabber's Jones said. "Our most searched product on Cyber Monday was Samsung's 55-inch LED TV, which retails for over $1,000."

Mobile Sales High

Mobile sales -- that is, transactions made via a mobile device -- were also high for Cyber Monday, but not as high as they were on Black Friday. This was likely a reflection of the fact that many shoppers had returned to work where they had access to high-speed Internet connections, Squire said.

On Cyber Monday, 10.8 percent of people used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, a significant increase from the 3.9 percent of online shoppers who visited retailers' sites via their mobile devices in 2010. Mobile sales accounted for 6.6 percent of online sales on Cyber Monday versus 2.3 percent in 2010.

On Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day, however, a whopping 17.04 percent of online consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, and 9.51 percent used their mobile device to make a purchase, IBM reported.

Similar to Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day, Apple's iPhone and iPad ranked one and two for mobile device retail traffic, at 4.1 percent and 3.3 percent respectively, on Cyber Monday. Android maintained its position in third at 3.2 percent. Collectively the iPhone and iPad accounted for 7.4 percent of all online retail traffic on Cyber Monday versus 10.2 percent on Black Friday.

Happy Employers

This drop in mobile traffic, however, also corresponded with a shift in shopping patterns this year -- likely a relief to many employers.

This year, shopping peaks occurred during lunch hours -- between 11:05 a.m. PST and 2:05 p.m. EST, Big Blue found. In addition, there was strong momentum after work hours on both the east and west coasts.

"This was somewhat of a different pattern of behavior than previous years," Squire said, referring to employees' reluctance to blatantly use work time to shop for bargains. "This year the growth pattern peaked early in the morning, during lunch hours and after work."

A Jolly Season

Despite the strong online sales numbers of the last few days, Squire was hesitant to call the entire season a win for e-commerce.

Consumers are still highly price-sensitive, he pointed out. "The question is, will retailers still offer big promotions, and will consumers still have enough cash in their wallets to make those purchases?"


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