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Cyber Monday Smashes Sales Records Again

December 3, 2013

Who would have ever guessed an event made up by a couple of people at the National Retail Federation (NRF) would have become so big? But that's exactly what Cyber Monday has become — big!

According to whom you believe, online sales yesterday were up somewhere between 17.5 percent (IBM) and 19 percent (Custora) over last year. Those figures come on top of the more than 20 percent gains in 2012 compared to the same day in 2011.

Nearly 30 percent of the online traffic this year came from mobile devices, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. That figure represents a 61 percent jump over last year.

The strong Cyber Monday numbers may bring some needed momentum for retailers in the early part of the Christmas selling season following a Thanksgiving weekend, which saw plenty of customer traffic to stores and websites as consumers pursued deals, albeit at lower rings. According to NRF, sales at stores and sites dropped 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion over the weekend.

"The results thus far from an e-commerce perspective have been very strong — certainly strong relative to brick-and-mortar stores," Ron Josey, an analyst at JMP Securitie, told Bloomberg News. "This is the first holiday season where mobile is absolutely having its mark on overall retail sales, whether that's from a smartphone or a tablet. It's not going away."

Discussion Questions:

Is Cyber Monday more important to Christmas selling season results than in the past? What effect do you think mobile devices are having on the event and what does that mean for merchants for future Cyber Mondays?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Is Cyber Monday more important to retailers' Christmas selling season results than in the past?


While Cyber Monday has become important in recent years to holiday results, I think that it could also decline and filter to other days and approaches. For example, more Cyber Friday deals and online deals the entire week of Thanksgiving. It's really up to retailers and the industry - whichever day they/we promote together becomes the big day.

There is also a huge and under utilized way of reaching me in a more relevant and personalized way than mass promotions. We've spoken a lot about personalized offers, etc. Harry & David many years ago simply reminded me of my entire purchasing history with them, in detail, early in the season and followed up with relevant discounts. "Oh yeah, last year I got Aunt so-and-so the Royal Rivieras." It became a thoughtful way for me to reconnect and give, versus feeling like a number in the masses and day-after statistics and simply throwing money at the holidays.

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Diana McHenry, Retail Client Partner, SAP for Retail

Mobile devices are having a significant and growing impact on Cyber Monday results, as evidenced by the numbers. Also, Black Friday numbers confirm that fewer shoppers are willing to give up family time and risk a potential taser attack to go shopping in person.

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Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints

As a family, we did not shop on Thanksgiving, nor on Black Friday in any stores. However, we did purchase two large items online on Cyber Monday. They were at significant discounts, no parking hassles, free shipping, no crowds or injuries, and quick delivery. So yes, I do think Cyber Monday is as much an event for Christmas selling as Black Friday.

I also think most folks will balance their online shopping between a PC and a mobile device, based on their age. Older folks on PCs and young folks on mobile devices will be the norm for a few more years.

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

Online shopping will become a larger part of the selling season, especially as the unruly behavior on Black Friday continues. What consumer wouldn't want to shop in the comfort and safety of their living room?

Whether it is "Cyber Monday" or some other day depends on what the retailer decides to promote. I have email in my inbox today talking about cyber Tuesday and have seen emails from retailers talking about cyber week.

Mobile is becoming the go-to device for consumers to browse, whether it will the be go-to for buying is another matter.

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Robert DiPietro, GVP Product Strategy & Business Development, Affinion Group

Retailers have become more and more effective in using online to generate sales. I read an article that said only 12-15 percent of consumers visited physical retail stores during Black Friday. That was enough to fill the stores. Far more went shopping online. It's easier to hunt for deals online, the products shown are usually in-stock, and free shipping and returns make the transaction painless.

The same article noted that Black Friday brick and mortar sales were down, speculating that some consumers we checking out the goods in-store, only to return home to look for a better price online.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

The question "Is Cyber Monday more important to Christmas selling season results than in the past?" is rhetorical. Based on the numbers, its importance is clearly growing to the holiday shopping season. And mobile is the future, so eTailers/retailers had best start working on their mobile presence or live with the consequences.

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Bill Davis, Director, MB&G Consulting

Cyber Monday sales increases year over year are certainly reflective of consumer trends to shop online, and using mobile devices. For today's consumer, omni-channel shopping is the new normal.

Black Friday officially died in 2013. Retail stores are so desperate that they can't wait ... many are opening early on Thursday. My prediction for next year is that there won't be a "Black Friday" but more of a black holiday week for retail stores.

In a similar vein, "Cyber Monday" will no longer be a day. In fact, Amazon and others have been promoting Black Friday and pre-Cyber Monday deals for weeks. It will become an online week of promotions, or perhaps "Cyber November."

At the end of the day, the consumers are in charge and vote with their plastic. This year's increases in online sales indicates that you, I and our neighbors are increasingly voting for the convenience, value ... and yes, the deals of shopping online. Not just for holidays, but shopping any time, everywhere 24/7/365.

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

It's like the e-commerce companies have stolen a page from Hallmark and created a new holiday that feeds on itself.

One of the more interesting developments with Cyber Monday is its growth as a marketing tool in countries other than the US and Canada. It has become a big promotion day in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, The Netherlands and France. Even nations that don't celebrate Christmas, like China and Japan, have seen dramatic increases in Cyber Monday marketing. India is getting into its own version of Cyber Monday with something called the Great Online Shopping Festival slated for next week. And I can't imagine the pace slowing down for several years to come.

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Ron Margulis, Managing Director, RAM Communications

The growth is impressive. What is more impressive is the sales growth from tablets and mobile devices. More than ever before, large brick and mortar stores will need a strong cohesive web and mobile strategy for the coming year and Christmas 2014.

The group in retail that concerns me most are the smaller stores (1-20 locations). How can they drive people to in-store sales when you can order everything easily from your recliner or in the parking lot while you wait to pick up your child from school?

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John Boccuzzi, Jr., Managing Partner, Boccuzzi, LLC

While I still think of Cyber Monday as a manufactured event, it has definitely grown in importance. After all, most of retail's growth has been generated online. If double-digit increases continue, perhaps digital channels can negate lowering in-store sales.

Mobile devices just make it easier to shop. Personally, I'd love to see the events winding down, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

I'm not sure you can read too much into the Cyber Monday numbers, except as a counterpoint to the NRF-reported decline in weekend sales across all channels. It's likely that brick-and-mortar numbers dropped even more, with retailers' extended hours draining any sense of urgency around Black Friday sales events.

Meanwhile, yesterday's big number underscores the overall health of e-commerce, even though many retailers have turned "Cyber Monday" into "Cyber Week." (My e-mail box is full of extended Cyber offers today.) So the same sense of urgency is put at risk, often by the same retailers who mismanaged their brick-and-mortar results over the weekend.

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

Cyber Monday as a symbol of online commerce will continue to become more important to retailers in the Holiday Season as online sales take a growing slice of the overall sales pie. What we'll see in the coming years is the declining rate of growth for Cyber Monday (still in very healthy high teens). The increase of mobile devices in everything we do will make retailers integrate mobile marketing and 1:1 real-time and context aware promotions into their shopper engagement portfolio more seriously.

There's a more basic assumption that is challenging our underlying premise to "Cyber Monday." The original thinking was that people would eat their Thanksgiving dinner and head out to the stores on Black Friday to formally begin the Holiday Season shopping. And that whatever they couldn't find or didn't get to on Black Friday would then be a "mop up operation" on Monday as they shopped from work (the days when homes had dial-up and Internet access at work was superior). Today, technology has changed the landscape(and shopper behavior) to the point we're debate just how big mobile commerce will become.

The upshot here is that retailers need to make a shift in their Holiday sales strategy and not be pigeon-holed into thinking of digital commerce as a backup or secondary to store sales. The two go naturally together like milk and a PB&J sandwich.

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Mohamed Amer, Vice President, Global Integrated Retail Unit, SAP

Little doubt that Cyber Monday has become increasingly important in the Christmas selling season. The fact of the matter is that it serves as a launching pad to bring more consumers to the bridge to online sales on an ongoing basis.

That process serves all - consumers, exclusive online merchants, brick & mortar merchants with solid online platforms and exclusive brick & mortar merchants who need a wake-up call to get moving into the digital space.

An anecdotal play - the Blonde Bombshell, my wife, Lynn, of 40 years, was seeking an area carpet at Pottery Barn over the Holiday weekend. The shipping costs were going to be $65 if ordered online, and the brick & mortar store in Naples was out-of-stock.

That didn't deter my frugal shopper. She went back to the Pottery Barn website, found that she could receive free shipping on Cyber Monday, and made the purchase. Pottery Barn picked up an added $800 sale, Lynn will have the area carpet she wants in home in time for Christmas, I don't have to pull out the SUV to pick it up, and an already strong alliance between Pottery Barn and the Blonde Bombshell is further solidified for throughout the year.

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Roger Saunders, Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

It is hard to find anything wrong with selling on the Internet. It doesn't require a large investment (you can contract most of the services), the reach is tremendous, and the audience (who are accessing the internet somehow) likely have disposable income after buying their tablet or smart phone. What can go wrong?

But it is just this very simple picture that I think gets people in trouble. Sure, if all you want to do is get the most you can for those items in the basement go to eBay and have at it. But if you are looking to establish a relationship with a customer base who use you as their go-to source for goods then you need to do more than simply hang out a website.

Online will no doubt continue to become a bigger portion of retail. But the Internet will not replace good service and attention to customer satisfaction. Handling returns and correcting mistakes will still be necessary in order to build a reputation. Much more must be spent on advertising and creating a "buzz" not just for the specific products but also the source. This will lead to much more private label just as media distributors are becoming content providers. But all of this will take time.

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Bill Bittner, Principal, BWH Consulting

I believe that one of my IBM online analytics reports over the weekend stated that Mobile sales were up 37%, 31% over last year! Hmmmm. Duh, ya think Mobile is having an impact?

And yes, Cyber whatever day is very important to the Christmas selling season. Today's consumer wants to shop online to the tune of double digit increase over last year. Smart retailers will be there or be square!

Lee Kent, Brings Retail Executives Together to Meet.Learn.Profit, RetailConnections

I believe that the industry and press media make far more out of this day than the consumers do. Consumers have been shopping for holiday purchases for several weeks and will continue to shop until the day of the holiday. Mobile usage is growing, of course, and the device of choice will be interesting a year or so from now. Here is a bit more detail of what transactions transpired on more than 800 branded websites over the past weekend....

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive, IBM

Since this year's season is a a few days shorter than normal, the Cyber Monday momentum may be a little bit more important than in some other years.

I concur strongly, however, with Chris's observation that one day does not a cyber selling season make.

From the shoppers' perspective, the distinction between online and in-store purchases is a technicality, and the same may be said about purchases made using mobile devices. They just want to get what they want using the processes that work best for them in each moment. For many, that will mean a mix of in-store, Web and mobile shopping.

Merchants will remain challenged to deliver smoothly across all those mechanisms. This adds complexity, which puts smaller retailers at some disadvantage, but is hard for everybody.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

Online sales have matured. While important to a retailer's sales, cyber Monday is taking on a lot of the same negatives for retail as Black Friday. Who can sell the cheapest regardless of if any profit is to be made. It also proves that the whole buy local movement is more talk than reality. Now not even entry level employees from the consumer's "local" market get any benefit or reason to expect more hours from Christmas sales spikes.


Think about it. Why shop in stores when they're at their worst - stuffed with merchandise and surly customers? Especially when you can easily (key term) do it from the comfort of your office at lunch.

Besides, the future of retail is the store as a showroom and the computer as your personal checkout. We're just feeling the beginnings of that change these last few years.

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Lee Peterson, EVP Creative Services, WD Partners

I think Black Friday, Thanksgiving Weekend, and Cyber Monday are all going to blur together anyways for a 5 or 6 day shopping extravaganza, online and in-store. Watching the online "sales," it got a little difficult to tell whether a promoted item was there on Friday and again on Monday, or present while quantities lasted. For a retailer, stocking and holding reserve promotional product till Monday may mean a missed opportunity to sell more of it if they start on Friday. I thought that by Monday, companies like Newegg and Amazon were just throwing a good portion of their entire product catalog into the specials area with the word "sale" on top.

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Peter J. Charness, SVP America, Global CMO, TXT Group

I am proud to say I was part of the Cyber Monday sales, and have kept my ongoing record of never having shopped on Black Friday. I am crowd free.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Well of course it's more important; and as more and more sales move online it will become more important still.

That having been said, isn't it time we stop emphasizing particular channels and go back to what we always did: company-to-company comparisons? It just doesn't make sense to talk about "omni-channel" retailers and then treat each component in isolation. No retailer would put out a press release saying "sales in my odd numbered aisles were up 6%, while my even numbered aisles were flat," and it makes little (or no) more sense to say "my online sales were up 6% while my B&M sales were flat."It's the ALL SALES number that matters.


It's not so much that Cyber Monday is important to the Christmas selling season - or the effect that mobile devices are having on the event. What's important to note is how the behavior of the consumer is changing. More and more consumers are comfortable with online purchasing and using any device; mobile, computer or tablet. That's the key. Are retailers taking advantage of the shift? Or, are they lagging behind or trying to keep up?

As for mobile devices, there are new apps and technology that make it easier to use mobile device users to make purchases. Retailers must choose what works best for their customers.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Cyber Monday is the biggest online sales day in the entire year. In addition, our research found that the percentage of holiday online sales earned on Cyber Monday grew by 74% in the past four years ('09-'12), so Cyber Monday is definitely growing in importance.

That said, it is a little known fact that Cyber Monday accounts for less than 6% of total holiday revenue. In fact, our research found that there are two time periods in December that are as lucrative as Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

You can see this research here.

Mobile is dominating the online holiday season this year. Our most recent figure on the Custora Pulse, that aggregates data from over 100 retailers, shows that almost one in every three online orders is now made on a mobile device (phone or tablet).

You can see real-time holiday e-commerce data here.

Netta Kivilis, Head of Marketing, Custora

Based on the headlines, retail stores should just close their doors, but let's get real. We start with the term Black Friday. This was an internal industry term used by department stores to indicate the first day their profit and loss statement was in the black since starting the New Year. Now some brilliant merchandiser uses it for a promotional theme, so they can tell customers now is our time to make money off you.

Note, this is exactly what Sam Walton was against as too many retailers would have a bad Christmas season and be out of business. Sam Walton demanded the company make money every day of the year, and they do.

Yes, internet sales increased this year by 16% or more. This says internet sales increase approximately $1 billion over the Thanksgiving through Monday period. Total internet sales were approximately $7.4 billion or 11% of total sales. Store sales were down approximately $1.7 billion, but still represent 89% of total sales. Overall total sales were down $.7 billion, maybe a weak economy and anticipated higher medical insurance payments are holding consumers back. Even if you assume internet sales increase at 16% and store sales decrease at 2.9% it will take 13 years for internet sales to equal store sales.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

Cyber Monday was indeed very successful for our retail clients as we saw web traffic and order volumes increase on average by thirty-five percent over last year, though there are other significant take-aways to call out from the five-day shopping period that kicked off on Thanksgiving Day.

Similar to 2012, we again saw the 'Post Turkey Blitz' phenomenon, meaning that web traffic volumes hit their highest peaks on Thanksgiving Day (over Cyber Monday), beginning at 4pm Eastern and then continuing across the time zones.

In addition, there was a tremendous surge in mobile commerce over last year, with mobile devices accounting for thirty-five percent of web traffic over the five-day period. It's hardly a coincidence then that consumer electronics purchases, particularly for smart phones and tablets, led the pack.

Additional factors contributing to the online shopping bonanza included the fact that aggressive promotions and pricing plans by retailers started earlier this year due to the compressed holiday season. Further, cloud computing has been a big game changer for the retail industry over the last eighteen months as retailers have come to better understand how models can scale up or down, which is ideal for accommodating peak traffic times.

Overall, the infrastructure and stability of the retail ecosystem is better today than I've ever seen.

Phil Burroughs, Vice President of Retail and Hospitality, Verizon Enterprise Solutions

Some thoughts:

  • Improved mobile shopping experiences will mean that all workers can participate in blowing off the Monday after Thanksgiving - just think, now air traffic controllers and surgeons can participate!
  • Wasn't there a rule about not buying a car built on a certain day?
  • Companies should make it a perk, and retailers should negotiate promotions at the company level. The IBM/Macy's 40% Cyber Monday promotion.

Vahe Katros, Consultant, Plan B

We are talking up some impressive numbers in this article. I would have liked to see dollar amounts and profit margins for the e-commerce event of the year, but that is going to wait until the month of March. If the numbers are declining anything like we might expect, there is still a lot of recession left.

On a brighter side, the 15- 20 percent transaction increase is something to look into. The trend for consumers to quit driving all over the place looking for a deal will continue to grow for many years to come. The need to cash in on events like Cyber Monday are long overdue for the skeptics that for whatever reason are not e-commerce engaged. It is still about market share for the time being, and failure to remember this and use every means to get more sales will kill you quick.


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