This weekend comScore reported that for the first time Black Friday online sales topped $1 billion. The expectation is that today, the awkwardly named “Cyber Monday,” will see potential online sales exceeding Friday’s totals, perhaps reaching $1.5 billion as Americans throw off the shackles of austerity that have limited holiday spending over the past few years.
Black Friday originally was a reference to aggressively discounted in-store sales, while Cyber Monday was so named for the day when people returned to work and could shop online with a high speed connection. The reality today is more complex, with most people having access to “broadband” internet connections at home and more than half of mobile subscribers owning smartphones. Cyber Monday has thus become just another day of deals and discounts.
The online deals started Thanksgiving day in the US. Indeed, online sales on Thanksgiving are growing faster than any other holiday shopping day, up nearly 130 percent over the past five years according to comScore.
According to Hitwise traffic to the top 500 retail sites was up compared with last year. Amazon was the top online retail site, followed by Walmart, Best Buy, Target and JC Penney.
Hitwise reported that “Among the top 5 sites, JC Penney saw the biggest day-over-day growth at 26%. Looking at the top 20 retail sites on Black Friday, the Apple Store site saw the biggest day-over-day growth at 99%.” ComScore had a similar though slightly different list of the top five sites on Black Friday:
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) roughly 250 million consumers shopped in stores or online over the course of the long Thanksgiving holiday. On average people spent about $423 this year over vs. $398 in 2011. The NRF said that overall spending rose about 13 percent to just over $59 billion over the four-day shopping weekend.
The online metrics firms continue to juxtapose and perpetuate a kind of false dichotomy between online and offline sales. Consumers don’t make the same distinctions and move freely between online and in-store purchases, with smartphones as a bridge between them.
US consumers who visited stores checked prices and shopped online through their smartphones simultaneously. In some cases those smartphone lookups led to later online purchases.
IBM reported this year that “Mobile purchases soared with 24 percent of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. Mobile sales exceeded 16 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2011.”
We’re now firmly in a multi-screen world with consumers moving fluidly between online, offline and mobile shopping (including tablets). Retailers and researchers have yet to catch up and integrate these views of the multi-channel shopper.
While the kick-off weekend for holiday shopping was a very good sign for the retail economy, we’ll have to see whether consumers sustain these spending levels throughout December.