Cyber Monday Shopping Traffic Breaks Records, Sites

Judging from the early returns, this year’s “Cyber Monday” looks to be another record-breaker.

Internet content delivery player Akamai reported that peak traffic to U.S. retail sites during Cyber Monday — the first Monday after Thanksgiving — increased 30 percent from last year, reaching 4.6 million global visitors per minute.

Akamai’s early findings may bear out predictions from retail industry association that 72 million Americans would shop online on Cyber Monday this year, up 18.6 percent from last year.

Likewise, online metrics firm comScore has projected online spending to surge past $700 million, which would set a new record.

The firm reported $608 million in online consumer spending last Cyber Monday, a 26 percent increase from the year before.

By 10 a.m. EST yesterday morning, per-minute Internet traffic had already exceeded last year’s peak, which didn’t come until 2 p.m. EST, according to Akamai.

As heavy as the traffic was, Monday might still be a prelude to things to come. comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement that his firm’s projected figure for Cyber Monday “would make it the heaviest online shopping day on record.”

“We can expect to see even stronger days ahead as the 2007 shopping season progresses into December,” Fulgoni said.

Accordingly, eBay subsidiary, which is already reporting a 28 percent increase in traffic this Cyber Monday compared with last year, is looking forward to what it calls “Green Monday,” the second Monday in December.

Piggybacking on procrastinating shoppers, “Green Monday” in recent years brought increased revenue and traffic, CEO Josh Silverman said in a statement.

Retailers across the board have been heavily promoting their online stores this holiday season. More than 72 percent planned some promotion specifically for Cyber Monday, up from 42.7 percent last year, according to Offers include product-specific discounts, one-day sales and free shipping.

Sales up, but sites down?

Record site traffic might be a victory for the marketing departments, but IT gets a mixed report card, according to Keynote Systems, a research firm that measures Web site performance. Just as on Black Friday, many e-commerce sites buckled under the weight of the traffic, which created significant slowdowns in product search and checkout.

Brick-and-mortar retailers suffered the biggest problems, according to Keynote, with Toys “R” Us’ site experiencing slowdowns of up to 300 percent,’s transaction processing slowing by up to 400 percent, and Costco’s site performance flagging by as much as 500 percent in periods of peak traffic.

Yahoo’s hosted shopping service, which Keynote does not track, also hit major snags due to heavy traffic. Yahoo hosts the e-commerce services for many smaller retailers, who found that their shopping cart services were unable to process transactions yesterday afternoon.

Shortly after noon yesterday, Yahoo posted an acknowledgement on its Small Business site that shoppers had been receiving a “system unavailable” message when trying to checkout on some merchants’ sites. At 9:51 p.m., Yahoo reported that after some reconfiguration, all merchants could process transactions, but some could expect slower-than-usual site performance.

This morning, at 2:06 a.m., Yahoo reported that the issue had been resolved and that it was “actively monitoring all systems involved.”

Yahoo’s problem may have been an anomaly, but Keynote’s research suggests that the strain of heavy traffic on site performance is not, with site slowdowns also having taken place on Black Friday.

However, even with Black Friday’s difficulties, enough of the day’s shoppers held on through the checkout process to post impressive numbers.

Online shoppers spent $531 million on Black Friday, up 22 percent from last year, comScore has reported. On Thanksgiving, online retail spending rose 29 percent from last year to $272 million.

The company also said that for the first 23 days of November (ending on Black Friday), online retail spending reached $9.36 billion, up 17 percent from the same period last year.

And the hottest product segment so far this shopping season? Sales of video games, consoles and accessories are up 134 percent from last year, propelled in large part by hot items like the Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 3 and Halo 3, according to comScore.

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