Cyber Monday barely retained its status as the biggest online spending day of the year after a surge of shoppers hit computers and phones instead of stores on Black Friday to chase deals earlier in the season.
Online spending on Nov. 28 rose 12% to a record $3.45 billion, according to Adobe Systems Inc. Black Friday almost caught up, with $3.34 billion spent online, a gain of 21.6% from a year ago and another record.
The narrowing gap highlights the capitulation of brick-and-mortar stores to the spending habits of their shoppers, who prefer the convenience of scouting deals from home to the challenge of battling fellow consumers at a store for limited bargains.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and department stores have joined Amazon.com Inc. to offer online deals earlier in the holiday shopping season rather than saving their best prices for those who go to the stores on select days such as Black Friday.
“More and more people would rather have that time back in their day to spend with family rather than driving somewhere, parking and fighting crowds,” said David Spitz, CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps nearly 3,000 merchants sell on Amazon, EBay Inc., Wal-Mart and other online marketplaces. “It’s what’s driving the long-term trend of e-commerce. It’s convenient and puts hours back in shoppers’ lives.”
E-commerce sales in November and December will grow 17.2% to $94.7 billion, more than five times the pace of total retail sales growth of 3.3%, according to EMarketer.
Online stores are counting on shoppers to spend big during the “Cyber Five” period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday to make up for time spent earlier this month obsessing about the presidential election instead. November got its slowest start for online sales since Adobe began collecting data in 2012, which compared post-election U.S. spending patterns with the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
Indications so far are that consumers are shaking off election jitters and craving retail therapy. Amazon lured shoppers with 50-inch televisions for $145, half price select Nerf toys and Play-Doh items and $40 off its popular voice-activated Echo personal assistant. Wal-Mart and Target responded with their own deals on electronics and video games.
Amazon sales were on pace to set a record for the day, with customers ordering more than 2 million toys, including the Pie Face Showdown by Hasbro, the company said in a statement. The best-selling product on the site on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday was the Echo Dot, the lowest-cost version of its voice-activated personal assistant, marked down to $40.
Wal-Mart reported orders through its mobile app with in-store pickup were up 150%.
Cyber Monday traditionally relied on shoppers returning to work and using fast internet connections to get holiday gifts. The rise of smartphones and mobile-optimized websites makes it easier for them to shop from the couch on Thanksgiving or even from the road before the holiday.
Online sales totaled $1.93 billion on Thanksgiving, up 11.5% from a year earlier. And it turns out EBay was on to something with its newly minted “ Mobile Wednesday,” the day before Thanksgiving when it expected travelers to shop from the road. Online spending increased 19% that day to $1.57 billion, according to Adobe.