Cyber Monday Sets Online Sales Record

WWD on 2016 -Nov -29

Cyber Monday just barely kept its crown as the biggest online shopping day of the year.

Cyber Monday set a new record this year.

Cyber Monday set a new record this year.

Shutterstock / Monkey Business I

The Monday after Thanksgiving hit a new online record for the U.S. with an estimated $3.45 billion spent via e-commerce, a 12.1 percent increase over a year ago and 2.6 percent above predictions from Adobe, which measures data from 23 billion visits to retail web sites.

But while the increase was a healthy one, 2016 continued the trend of slowing growth on Cyber Monday — and the day finished just ahead of online sales on Black Friday, which raked in $3.34 billion for digital merchants.

For the full “Turkey 5” — Amazon’s term for the shopping sprint from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday — U.S. shoppers spent an estimated $12.81 billion online, up 15.2 percent from a year earlier. That was on par with expectations, although Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst with Adobe Digital Insights, said the weekend total was higher than anticipated, while the week before Thanksgiving was a little under forecasts.

November online sales, through Monday, rose 7.6 percent to $39.97 billion, according to Adobe.

“Consumers converted carts into purchases at record-high levels before the season,” Gaffney said. “It’s also incredible that Black Friday inched so close to Cyber Monday this year, generating only $110 million less in online sales. We’ll be watching this closely next year as Black Friday could be the one to top the records.”

Gaffney said weekend discounts tended to be lower than last year, and that retailers had been generating excitement through social media and email marketing.

Sarah Engel, senior vice president of global marketing firm Dynamic Action, said this holiday season could be called the “Year of Promotions.”

“Retailers fought harder than ever for shoppers’ attention and aimed to provide the endorphin rush of getting a good deal that the consumer now expects,” Engel said.

She said orders using a promotion were up 49 percent on Cyber Monday and rose an average 37 percent for Cyber Weekend since Thanksgiving Day.

While Cyber Monday is typically the big online discount day, many retailers got a head start. ShopStyle saw almost twice as many price drops from its retailers on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday, with some retailers beginning to reduce prices on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Gaffney said that because prices were so much lower on some things, revenue figures weren’t as high as they could have been — not because people were buying less, but because discounts were greater than expected. Still, given that figures were as high as they were, she called this an “even more impressive feat.”

And when shoppers were going online to look for deals, they increasingly used their mobile phones.

On Cyber Monday, mobile spending was up more than 34 percent compared to last year and accounted for $1.07 billion in sales. Still, this is $130 million less than on Black Friday, signifying that shoppers are splitting Friday’s traditional brick-and-mortar surge with digital shopping. Total mobile spend for the five days was $4.61 billion, according to Adobe.

Mobile accounted for an estimated 47 percent of visits to retail web sites (with 38 percent of that on smartphones), and 31 percent of sales (22 percent on phones), which, Adobe reported, indicates that consumers are shopping from computers in the late evening.

The average order value on iPhones was $141, while the average on Android devices was $128.

Data from eBay showed that roughly half of women’s apparel sold on Cyber Monday was purchased via a mobile device, said Hal Lawton, senior vice president, North America, at eBay Marketplaces. EBay reported that 3 p.m. Eastern was the peak shopping time on desktop devices, while 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time was the peak shopping time on mobile and overall.

This rise in mobile shopping shows that retailers have done everything they can to make the experience better, said Forrester analyst Fiona Swerdlow.

“I think they understand that smartphones are incredibly important to consumers, even when they are shopping in stores as well,” Swerdlow said. “The impact of smartphones is greater than the numbers look because they are also an important source of information.”

While brick-and-mortar retailers are expected to go into something of a lull until later in the holiday season, experts expect online sales to press on.

Adobe predicted this year’s holiday shopping season, which will continue through Dec. 31, will drive as much as $91.6 billion in online sales.

“Many consumers do not finish their shopping until the very last day, so I think there will be a lot of shopping yet to happen,” Swerdlow said. “There are almost four weeks left before the 25th, so consumers are not going to be in a frenzy for the entire four weeks, but retailers will continue to entice shoppers with promotions and special offers and events to get them to shop at any touch point.”

She said any retailer that offers blended options such as click-and-collect or ship to store will be a winner, especially after shipping deadlines have passed, and extending into smaller towns with mass merchants.

Last year, she noted, the biggest growth rate was the last two weeks in December. “It won’t be as much in terms of revenue, but a higher growth rate.”

Going forward, Morty Singer, chief executive officer of retail consulting firm Marvin Traub Associates, said the trend of mobile phones as an on-demand appendage will continue.

This year, he said, the concept finally “came into its own.”

“It’s hearing mom say she wants a scarf above the table and buying it under the table,” he said, adding that mobile payment mechanisms such as Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Samsung Pay and PayPal are “conversion accelerators.”

“It’s there with you all the time,” Singer said. “Everyone has huge phones and it’s a good experience on most sites and you don’t even need an app. The closer you get to the point of impulse, the more powerful the moment. If you can catalyze the point of impulse, you’re in good shape.”