by Doug Desjardins
While Black Friday was a forgettable event for retailers this year, Cyber Monday was a huge success. Buying trends unearthed by several research firms hint that online sales should remain strong through the holiday season.
Though Cyber Monday sales rose only 5 percent this year, according to research firm ComScore, the shopping habits of consumers showed a pronounced shift to shopping at home both on Cyber Monday and Black Friday. In the past, most Cyber Monday shopping was done at work where high-speed Internet access was readily available, but the old 9-to-5 shopping pattern is changing. According to a survey conducted by BIGresearch for Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation (NRF), the bulk of online shopping on Cyber Monday was done at home in the early morning and late evening. The busiest hour of the day was from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and traffic increased 19 percent from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. compared to 2008. And 91.5 percent of consumers surveyed said they did some shopping at home on Cyber Monday, with 32.9 percent shopping in the early evening and 22.7 percent shopping in the late evening.
"More families have high-speed Internet access at home and don't have to rely on work computers to make purchases, which make the early morning and evening hours crucial to sales," said Shop.org executive director Scott Silverman. He added that online retailers "are taking lessons learned from Cyber Monday and planning to implement minor changes over the next few weeks."
According to a report from Experian Hitwise, Amazon was the most visited site on Cyber Monday, maintaining the top spot it's occupied since 2006 with a 44 percent increase in traffic. The report estimates that Amazon generated 15.5 percent of the visits to the top 500 online retail sites, followed by Wal-Mart.com with 9.5 percent, Target (5.1 percent), Best Buy (3.5 percent) and JC Penney (2.5 percent). Retailers reporting the largest increase in traffic among the Top 20 were Staples with a 61 percent increase in Cyber Monday visits followed by Barnes & Noble with a 46 percent jump.
Online sales in the days leading up to Cyber Monday were also strong. ComScore reports that online spending increased 10 percent on Thanksgiving Day to $318 million, jumped 11 percent on Black Friday to $595 million, increased 5 percent over the weekend to $805 million and ended with a flourish on Cyber Monday with a 5 percent jump to $887 million in sales, matching the single-day record set on December 9, 2008.
The prospects for holiday shopping in stores aren't as promising, if the numbers from Black Friday are any indication. An NRF report showed that spending in stores declined 7.8 percent on Black Friday despite a 13-percent increase in customer traffic.