cyber monday

Following a strong start to the holiday season over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, Cyber Monday kept the momentum going and was on track to potentially deliver sales topping $9 billion.

As its name suggests, Cyber Monday zeros in on online sales — and continued deals — as people resume work after the long break.

If it serves as a signpost of what the industry can expect through the rest of the season, merchants have a little more reason to be optimistic — if they sell online.

According to Salesforce, Monday’s online sales are expected to grow 12 percent to hit $30 billion globally, while the U.S. is expected to gain by 15 percent to $8 billion.

Data from Adobe Digital Insights looked even more optimistic, predicting Cyber Monday sales would tally as much as $9.4 billion in the U.S., representing 18.9 percent growth over a year earlier. By 9 a.m. ET, the firm said, Monday’s groundswell had already raked in $473 million in online sales.

“Online shopping received some unexpected boosts this holiday season,” said Taylor Schreiner, principal analyst and head of Adobe Digital Insights. “Retailer fears of a shorter season meant that deals came much sooner than usual, and consumers took notice. In some areas of the country, adverse weather in the form of snow and heavy rain meant that many opted to stay home instead and grabbed the best deals online.”

The firm noted that on Black Friday, states with more than two inches of snow saw a 7 percent boost in online sales.

As for the shorter period between Thanksgiving and Christmas — which clipped six days from last year’s holiday shopping season, as well as a potential $1 billion in revenues — some retailers dealt with it by releasing Cyber Monday deals on Sunday.

Shopify’s global data showed that, as the clock tipped from Sunday into Monday, its merchants already surpassed $1.5 billion. The period from Black Friday through 1 a.m. ET on Monday delivered the equivalent of last year’s full four days of weekend sales.

Across the platform, the average U.S. cart price tallied $85.39, and the average shopping time — from start to checkout — was 24.8 minutes. At its peak moment, at 3:01 p.m. ET on Black Friday, Shopify sellers were scrambling to transact more than $1.5 million in sales per minute.

Adobe noted that Black Friday brought in $7.4 billion online, just below last year’s Cyber Monday at $7.9 billion. The takeaway is that “consumers are reimagining what it means to shop during the holidays, with smartphones having a breakout season as well,” Schreiner said. “We expect that consumers will spend $14 billion more this holiday season via their phones.”

Across research reports on the start of holiday sales, smartphones were cited as a major driver of the sales season.

Mobile accounted for 36.1 percent of online sales so far, according to Adobe. And smartphones delivered 58.1 percent of the online traffic to retail sites.

At Shopify, the smartphone dominance is even more pronounced. Mobile nabbed 70 percent of sales, as compared to desktop’s 30 percent. Apparel and accessories ranked as the top product category, followed by health and beauty. Mobile phone accessories ranked as the best-selling product, followed by makeup. The biggest shoppers were in New York City.

Salesforce’s report said 76 percent of all digital traffic during Cyber Weekend came from a mobile device.

Social shopping made its mark this year, peaking early during the week leading up to Cyber Monday, the Salesforce report continued: As much as 10 percent of all mobile traffic came from a social referring channel on Wednesday and Thursday, and 7 percent of digital orders came from a social referral.

Notably, as Salesforce pushes to integrate artificial intelligence into retail channels — for everything from customer service to consumer taste and prediction modeling — the company also reported that 9 percent of digital orders stemmed from consumers clicking or tapping on product recommendations on Thanksgiving Day.

But there’s another reason why shoppers may be flocking to their devices: convenience, a motivating force behind some of the other big retail trends, including “click and collect” or “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) services.

Adobe called out the rising adoption of BOPIS and curbside pick-up since the start of November, with usage shooting up to 43.2 percent growth over the same time last year. The number is particularly significant considering the extreme weather conditions in parts of the U.S. The researchers figure that these services are “breathing new life” into brick-and-mortar stores, and the firm expects their popularity to climb as Christmas inches closer.

Unfortunately for mom-and-pop shops, e-commerce giants look best positioned to take advantage of smartphone technology.

Companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue are outperforming smaller contenders with less than $50 million, in terms of smartphone performance, Adobe said. Large companies have 11 percent more in smartphone revenue share, and 80 percent better conversion rates.

Altogether, a record $72.1 billion was spent online in November and December so far, according to Adobe. Growth is at 16.3 percent over the same period last year, a gain above the forecast of 14.1 percent. Apart from whatever other factors there may be, the company believes that retailers’ discount strategy is succeeding.

The past weekend alone drove $7.4 billion in online sales, a 15.4 percent growth over last year. Every day this season so far has surpassed $1 billion, and 12 days have even surpassed $2 billion.

At this point, Adobe added, online retail is on track to hit $143.7 billion for the full holiday season.

If the Cyber Monday tally ends on a high, it will follow a shopping kickoff that has already broken records across physical and digital shopping. The total four-day period brought in $68.9 billion in U.S. sales, according to retail research firm and forecaster Consumer Growth Partners, for a 5.4 percent jump over last year.

The weekend’s growth edged out the firm’s 5.2 percent projection for the full November-to-December season. Having blasted out of the gate, the retail sector is on track to meet CGP’s full holiday forecast of $715 billion.

This was no small feat. In the months leading up to the key shopping season, the news looked dire across everything from vanishing mall traffic to fears of tariff increases.

Black Friday alone pulled in $31.2 billion, the firm said. And across the full four days, e-commerce nabbed a 20.4 percent share — for major growth of 58 percent over last year.

“After a seasonally slow early November, retail has inflected upward ever since, and has hardly looked back,” said CGP president Craig Johnson. “Paced by the ‘Big Four’ mega-retailers — Walmart, Amazon, Costco and Target — both Black Friday and the full weekend reached record levels, despite persistent weakness in the apparel and department store sectors.

“This year’s stellar 14 percent online growth accounts for over 58 percent of the total year-over-year increase in 2019 holiday sales, buoying overall consumer spending —  which in turn drives 69 percent of the economy,” he said.

As for what to look for in the future, a peek across borders could offer some insights on changing trends.

According to Chinese retail and tech juggernaut Alibaba, its Singles Day shopping event on Nov. 11 pulled in the equivalent of $38.4 billion of total gross merchandise volume and 1.3 billion delivery orders across more than 200,000 participating brands, easily beating Black Friday estimates in the U.S. On Singles Day, the first $1 billion in sales came in just one minute and eight seconds.

Granted, the retail titan knows that Nov. 11 is not a traditional holiday for Americans. But the company pointed out an interesting detail from Adobe’s research: Sales in the U.S. apparently jumped 38 percent on that day, showing faster growth than Black Friday and predictions for Cyber Monday.

Given that some retailers start their holiday promotions while Halloween merchandise is still on shelves, it’s not hard to imagine retailers looking to start the peak shopping season even earlier.

What’s less clear is if consumers are ready en masse for a Happy HallowThanksMas yet.

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