RealTime IT News

Cyber Monday Sales Top $700 Million

It's official: Online retailers on Monday set a new record with sales of $733 million, marking the highest-ever performance on a "Cyber Monday," as the Monday after Thanksgiving has become known.

The day's much-anticipated online shopping turnout saw Web retailers notching a 21 percent gain over the same day last year, according to online metrics firm comScore. Monday's results handily met comScore's prediction that sales would exceed $700 million.

Yesterday, early results from content delivery firm Akamai gave the first hint of good news for e-commerce players. The company found that peak traffic to retail sites increased from last year, although Akamai did not estimate sales.

While Monday represented online retail's first $700 million day, comScore is predicting that several days this holiday season will see even heavier performances.

"I think we can expect Monday [Dec. 10] to be one of the bigger days, if not the biggest," comScore Senior Analyst Andrew Lipsman told InternetNews.com.

That could be the day when e-commerce hits the $800 million mark. Last year, the day with the heaviest spending was Wednesday Dec. 13, with sales of $667 million. As a result, an $800 million day would continue the pattern of roughly 20 percent year-to-year increases, Lipsman notes.

Online shopping traffic is generally frontloaded in the beginning of the week, Lipsman says. Monday and Tuesday are usually the strongest days, followed closely by Wednesday. By the end of the week, with more people off of work and often working shorter hours, traffic falls off considerably.

One counterintuitive trend comScore identified is that more people may have shopped during Cyber Monday, but overall, they spent less money. The firm said the number of online buyers rose 38 percent, but the average purchase declined 12 percent from Monday last year.

The lower dollar-per-customer figure could be a partial product of the extensive discounts many retailers were offering, comScore said.

In addition to overall sales, retail sites' traffic saw a healthy increase on Monday as well. Nielsen Online said it recorded 32.5 million unique visitors to sites listed in its Holiday eShopping Index, a 10 percent jump compared to last year. Monday's traffic also represented a 13 percent increase from Black Friday.

Most major online retailers saw substantial gains in traffic over last year, with Amazon leading the pack. The e-commerce bellwether experienced a 26 percent increase from last year, according to comScore.

More good news for the industry comes from ForeSee Results, a research group that measures online customer response. ForeSee's survey found that customers reported a slightly higher level of satisfaction with their online shopping experiences than last year.

According to ForeSee, the two main detractors from overall customer satisfaction were first-time shoppers' unfamiliarity with navigating e-commerce sites, and the performance slowdowns many sites experienced due to the increased traffic.

Despite the slowdowns, ForeSee said most sites did a better job handling Monday's traffic than in previous years.

Though Cyber Monday is not always the biggest online shopping day of the year -- that honor often falls to a day later in the season -- it is when retailers traditionally see the first major spike in holiday buyers and browsers.

Six of comScore's top 10 retail sites on Monday received more than twice their average daily traffic during the previous four weeks.

The notable exception was Apple, whose Monday traffic only increased 5 percent over the previous four weeks. That may actually be good news for the company, since comScore attributes the modest gain to consistently heavy traffic to the site in the month leading up to Cyber Monday.

Looking at the months of November and December together, comScore projects online spending to hit $29.5 billion this year, which would be a 20 percent increase from the 2006 holiday season.

If that figure holds, Cyber Monday would account for 2.5 percent of this year's online holiday shopping.

That year-over-year increase in holiday shopping also would be consistent with the growth in e-commerce spending comScore reported for the rest of the year. Web retail spending from January through October topped $93.6 billion, a 21 percent increase from the $77.5 billion consumers spent online during the same period last year.

With an uncertain economic picture, it's too early to speculate on whether e-commerce can continue the brisk 20 percent growth rate into next year, Lipsman says.

"If consumer spending in general dries up, that's certainly going to hurt," he said, but online retailers won't be hurt nearly as much as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.