Cyber Monday hit e-commerce with a bang and some big numbers — but still prompted something of a yawn from the other side of the online shopping holiday war.
Americans spent a combined 11,000 years shopping online Monday — shelling out a record $7.9 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. That came in better than early projections and marked an increase of 19.3 percent over a year earlier as consumers took to their smartphones more than ever, using them to spend $2.2 billion.
But there are others vying for the consumer crown.
Alibaba, which just celebrated its very own commercial holiday, took the opportunity to “recirculate” some stats from Singles’ Day on Nov. 11.
It took the Chinese company — which doesn’t hold inventory but provides a platform for buyers and sellers to connect — just one minute and 25 seconds to drive gross merchandise volume of $1 billion during Singles’ Day. Consumers bought more than 400 tons of chocolate in the first hour.
And for the full day, Singles’ Day saw volume of $30.8 billion, generating more than one billion packages, which Alibaba noted exceeds the nearly 800 million packages UPS expects to handle between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
The juxtaposition of Singles’ Day and Cyber Monday is not apples to apples (it also neglects Amazon’s own holiday to bolster the summer lull, Prime Day).
But the shopping holiday head-to-head does highlight several key factors of the retail scene.
• Events matter when it comes to getting shoppers to commit and spend. Retailers are focusing more on providing “experiences” and the headlong rush into an online holiday with plenty of big deals certainly qualifies.
• The Chinese shopper is still on the rise and a force to be reckoned with.
• Online shopping is only getting easier after years of “omnichannel” retooling and Amazon’s market share push. And as new avenues to spend online open up, consumers are only too willing to make use of them.
“Investments in making the experience faster and easier have paid off,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “Cyber Monday shoppers relied heavily on their mobile devices, resulting in an unprecedented 55.6 percent year-over-year increase from smartphones alone. Additionally, buy-online, pick-up-in-store saw a record 65 percent increase, signaling that retailers are increasingly fulfilling consumer expectations for integrated cross-channel experiences.”
Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s chief executive officer of Worldwide Consumer, said, “Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to break records on Amazon year-over-year, which tells us that customers love shopping for deals to kick off the holiday shopping season.”
During what Amazon calls the “Turkey 5” — the stretch from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday — its customers ordered 180 million products. That included 13 million fashion finds on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Data from Nomura Instinet showed that Calvin Klein and Adidas were popular apparel items on the site over the weekend.
The Turkey 5 is just the beginning — or really the beginning — of the holiday rush.
So far this year, early selling has indicated that merchants are on track to have a good season, with total retail sales growth of near 5 percent and the chance for even a little more.
“The good news is that plunging gasoline prices — down 35 cents per gallon since mid October — are giving a midseason boost to available discretionary spending,” said Craig Johnson, president of retail research firm Customer Growth Partners. “Rising disposable income is the major driver of higher holiday sales, but the gasoline savings — about $5 billion per month — are giving consumers an unexpected early present under the tree, and may yet turn holiday spending from strong to stellar.”
According to Cowen Equity Research, U.S. retail traffic in the fourth week of November increased 0.5 percent, while the week before was down 4.5 percent. Apparel traffic improved by 7.5 percent in week four of November and was down 4.5 percent the week before.
While Black Friday is the true starting gun for holiday sales, many shoppers are getting out much earlier and that has put something of a damper on the big sales days.
Pre-holiday promoting as far back as Nov. 1 bit into the gift shopping for the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period, the National Retail Federation said Tuesday. While business was good for retailers over the last five days, shopper turnout and gift spending on average per person were both slightly down from a year ago.
According to a joint NRF/Prosper Insights & Analytics survey concluded last Friday, more than 165 million Americans shopped in stores or online at one time or another from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday for gifts, a million more than what was expected based on an earlier survey. But that’s down from last year’s 174 million during the five days.
This year, shoppers on average spent $313.29 on gifts and other holiday items over the five-day period, or about $20 less than the $334.57 spent a year ago. The survey did not take into account self-purchasing, which retailers last weekend indicated has been good, spurred by price-promoting and cold weather.
Of the $313.29 spent, $217.37 (69 percent) was spent on gifts. The biggest spenders were older Millennials and Gen Xers at $413.05.
The slight drops in shoppers and how much they spent were due to retailers extending the holiday shopping season by staging Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales well before the actual days. There’s also an extra day between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, 32 versus 31 last year, and consumers believe markdowns will be steeper as Christmas gets nearer.
On average, consumers have 56 percent of their holiday shopping left to do. Many consumers (92 percent) believe that the strong deals seen over Thanksgiving weekend will continue or improve throughout the rest of the season, the NRF said.
Though holiday sales commenced well before Thanksgiving, “Black Friday remains a traditional if not emotional start to the holiday season,” said Bill Thorne, NRF’s senior vice president, communications and public affairs, during a conference call. “It’s still incredibly important to bring focus to the season, and to get people energized and excited about what’s coming up. It’s a great indicator in terms of spend, but the spend is happening over a much longer period of time.”
Top shopping destinations during the weekend included department stores at 42 percent; online retailers, 38 percent; apparel stores, 30 percent; grocery stores, 30 percent; discount stores, 29 percent, and electronics stores, 27 percent.
The survey, which asked 3,058 consumers about Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday shopping plans, was conducted Nov. 2 and 25 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 1.8 percentage points.
The survey found more than 89 million people shopped online and in stores, up nearly 40 percent from last year. The multichannel shopper outspent the single-channel shopper by $93, on average, the NRF said.
The NRF said the results it determined for the five-day period are consistent with its forecast of an up to 4.8 percent increase in holiday spending during November and December.
Top purchases over the weekend included apparel, bought by 57 percent of those surveyed; toys, 34 percent; books and video games, 29 percent; electronics, 26 percent, and gift cards, 20 percent.
“This year, Gen Zers and Millennials changed the way they shopped over Thanksgiving weekend,” said Phil Rist, Prosper’s executive vice president of strategy. “These younger shoppers have become savvier when it comes to their research by leveraging social media to find inspiration for their purchasing decisions and used the holiday weekend to splurge on nongift purchases for the season.”
The most popular day to shop online was Cyber Monday, cited by 67.4 million shoppers, followed by Black Friday with 65.2 million shoppers.
The most popular day for shopping at stores was Black Friday, with more than 67 million shoppers, followed by Small Business Saturday with 47.4 million. Also, 66 percent of smartphone owners used their mobile devices to make holiday decisions, up from 63 percent last year.
Ninety-two percent of those surveyed said deals would get better through the holiday season.
Said NRF president and ceo Matthew Shay, “Over the last couple of days, what I heard in discussions with retail ceo’s across all categories and segments was very positive, driven by macro conditions of low unemployment and rising wages combined with the right mix of merchandise at great prices. This is a very strong emotional start to the holiday season and a positive indicator of where we are headed over the next month.”