Pick Any Day, Holiday Sales Are Strong Online

Discussion
Nov 29, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


People may just have to reconsider the notion that Cyber Monday is the unofficial kickoff of the holiday selling season for online retailers.


While most of the media attention was focused on how strong online sales would be yesterday (and it appears they were), it turns out that a record number of visitors went online to shopping sites on Black Friday.


According to Nielsen/NetRatings, the number of unique visitors to 100 online retailers tracked by the service jumped 29 percent from last year’s number for the day after Thanksgiving.


In all, 7.4 million unique visitors went to those sites to make a purchase or do research on products they are looking to buy.


As for Cyber Monday, early reports suggest that it did not disappoint, with e-tailers reporting marked increased in traffic to their sites and higher revenues to go with it.


Troy Brown, a senior director for Timberland, who is responsible for overseeing the outdoor apparel and footwear company’s web site, told The Wall Street Journal traffic was up 87 percent over the same day last year and revenues had jumped 137 percent.


“The traffic spikes and revenue spikes are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s crazy,” he said.


Moderator’s Comment: Will this be a quantum leap type of year for online retailing? Does the increase in people doing product and pricing research as
well as shopping online indicate that a fundamental change has taken place in how consumers in America go shopping?

George Anderson – Moderator

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12 Comments on "Pick Any Day, Holiday Sales Are Strong Online"


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Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

It has taken a while to get here, but not a very long while in the overall scale of things. Online retailing is growing apace for all sorts of reasons, not least the availability of CHOICE, VALUE and SERVICE that consumers so want, need and miss in bricks and mortar outlets. Add to that the rate at which technology is becoming more affordable, making high speed connections the norm, and those billions of middle and upper class consumers now (literally) have the world at their feet (or fingertips if you insist). Of course it’s growing, and will continue to do so. Even fear of identity theft and inept, unreliable transport companies (did someone whisper post office???!!!) will not slow the rate of change in shopping patterns. Online shopping is here to stay, whether people research and/or spend, in whatever combinations. It provides the convenience and gratification, instant or otherwise, that shoppers have always demanded. Now they are being supplied.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 2 months ago

Why do we insist on labeling things like “Cyber Monday?” They become self-fulfilling prophecies. The scenes of people trampling each other at 5 AM at a Wal-Mart surely contributed to people staying home and shopping online over the weekend. As noted above, broadband penetration is high enough (coupled with “turbo” connections for the unfortunate dial-up crowd) that Cyber-Monday should be dispensed with. A nice chunk of the population is going to do a lot of its holiday shopping online throughout the holiday period. Hopefully, online retailers won’t fall into the trap of trying to do all their business in one day.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 2 months ago
This will poke a bit at dyed-in-the-wool iconoclasts, but the evidence has been in for a couple of decades that the formulaic “value equation” is dead. That emperor never had any clothes, and he’s still running around nekked. Long live the Fluid Value Equation©, which has no mandatory elements whatsoever – including price. The Fluid Value Equation© considers that no customer has a rigid, consistent set of ideal shopping circumstances. The (tasty) $12.95 precooked rack-of-ribs at Safeway on a Tuesday morning has far less value than the same item at the same price on Friday afternoon on the way home from work. The latest video game has little value until someone down the street buys one. The customers who comprise the salivating crowd in front of a Wal-Mart before opening on Black Friday will also go online to make other purchases (hopefully not drooling on their keyboards). Welcome to the worlds of Customer Defined Shopping© and Customer Defined Communication©. Increasingly, customers are adjusting and varying their value equations on the fly to meet their needs… Read more »
George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
15 years 2 months ago

The idea behind “Cyber Monday” was either concocted by some PR firm or came from the imagination of someone in the media. In either case, the idea came from someone who hasn’t been paying attention to the increasingly widespread use of the Internet in both offices and homes. Online holiday shopping began as early as late August and will continue to build until the last days before Christmas when customers can expect to get their purchases in time for giving.

And yes, the internet has become an important part of both holiday sales as well as overall retail sales. But, it is important to keep in mind that internet sales still represent less than 5% of total retail sales. Most consumers still like to shop in stores, touch the merchandise, and be involved in the experience. Customer service may not be great in some stores. Fortunately, in many stores, the holiday shopping experience is pleasant, enjoyable, rewarding and fun during the very important time of the year.

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Cybershopping is alive and well. How can anyone dispute this? The surge for Black Friday sales as well as “Black Monday” follow-ups simply reflect the continued growth of the internet in all of our lives. Whether it is for actual shopping or simply information gathering, this medium is quickly becoming our de facto standard for shopping and information. As our internet familiarity grows (along with the availability of broadband), we will continue to see the internet become a greater factor in our shopping experience. Add to this the great offers, and convenience, which this medium offers, and any retailer is incomplete without a robust internet presence, especially on Black Friday (and Black Monday). We can expect to see greater emphasis placed on retailer’s online communication during critical shopping days, and a greater demand from consumers for this information as the internet continues its growth.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Dan makes a great point about high-speed online shopping at work and I’ll add my theory that word-of-mouth is accelerating online holiday shopping. Powerful stuff when people who got a gift last year, asked, “How did you get it here so soon?” or, “It was wrapped beautifully – I know YOU didn’t do it – who did?,” and when online gift-givers keep admonishing their friends and family to “Just order it online!” rather than wasting time at the store, particularly for last-minute gifts that can be Fed-Ex’d faster than one can shop. Online shopping is going viral. Beyond that, travel restrictions have made the hauling of gifts to and fro much more of a hassle. How easy to have them wrapped and waiting upon your arrival to Grandma’s!

Andrew Casey
Guest
Andrew Casey
15 years 2 months ago

Retailers (and everyone else) need to recognize that just as the traditional lines between work and personal time are becoming less well defined, so are the distinctions (at least in consumers minds) between on-line and brick and mortar shopping. Hurried, time crunched people seek options in how they buy, and are beginning to redefine shopping to align with their needs and schedules. Sometimes it is more convenient to go to the store, but if I can use a DVR to time shift my favorite TV show to whenever I want to watch it, why can’t I use the internet to time shift my shopping to whenever it is most convenient to me? Retailers should quit thinking about “on-line vs brick and mortar” and start thinking about how customers want to buy rather than how they want to sell.

Dan Raftery
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
Most press coverage of cyber sales misses two key drivers. The first driver can be found behind the assumption that people would be more likely to log-on at work because they have higher speed connections there, hence the prediction that Cyber Monday would be a spiky echo of Black Friday. Two problems with that assumption: In most businesses, such activity would be unauthorized or could even be reason for disciplinary action. Sure, the employee cyber shopping over lunch hour is not cheating the company of time, but we all know better here. Non-productive use of workplace computers is a huge and growing issue. I know of several companies who have taken steps in recent months to increase security surveillance in this area. So, the home computer will just have to do for many. And by the way, what are the latest figures on growth of DSL/cable home installations? Home may not be slower than work. The second key driver of cyber sales is the catalog business. Catalog retailing is going gangbusters and guess what is… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Black Friday bad behavior horror stories help on-line retailers. Most people don’t enjoy getting up early to be pushed around by a crowd, with only a chance of getting the desired reward. Online shopping increases are being driven by the constant increase in broadband customers combined with the personal computer price reductions. But the fastest growth, percentage-wise, is behind us. Whether you “break a record” with a 20% increase or a 120% increase, you’re breaking a record either way. Retailing in most developed countries is a very mature business, so a channel showing any significant increase is exciting.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

I expect no quantum leap. We’ve moved into this quickly over the past 5 or 10 years, with critical mass now online. But I expect incremental gains to continue in double digits year-over-year for the foreseeable future. To Dan’s point, it’s interesting that catalogs do seem as strong as ever. I agree that there seems to be a growing tendency to look at the catalog, find an item, and then buy it online.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

As long as American consumers remained “time starved” and as long as customer service at retail continues at its woeful levels, not only will holiday sales online prosper but the phenomenon will continue beyond the holiday period.

Perhaps retailers feel that they can’t affect the “time starved” aspect, but what’s the excuse for not addressing the issue of “delighting” customers?

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 2 months ago

Yes to all of the questions. However, to some extent, this is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Online retailers are offering extreme, limited time deals during the days after Thanksgiving in order to compete with the b&m deals, thereby driving traffic to their sites on these days.

To answer Dan’s question, high-speed internet penetration exceeds 50%, so many do have at-home access to HSI. Part of what drives the shopping there is comparison shopping between online and b&m deals. All those shoppers who were cut out of the “limited quantity” deals at retail over the weekend or shopped, but didn’t buy, because the prices weren’t low enough, as well as though who carefully avoided retail last weekend, went online to get things started.

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