Promotions, including discounts and free shipping offers, helped boost… (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images )
Monday brought a bit of early holiday cheer for online retailers as shoppers spent less time but more money with Web merchants than last year.
Total online sales were up 13.7% on so-called Cyber Monday from the same day last year, with clothing and jewelry retailers leading the way, according to Coremetrics, which tracks sales for 500 member retailers. The average shopper spent $180.03 this year, up 38% from $130.04 a year earlier, said the San Mateo, Calif., online research firm.
Peak browsing occurred from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pacific time, just as West Coast shoppers were sliding into work and East Coasters were starting their lunch breaks.
PayPal, a service that processes roughly 15% of U.S. online payments, reported a similar surge. Online sales increased 20% on Monday compared with last year, according to the San Jose company owned by EBay Inc.
What's driving consumers online? Convenience and bargains, Coremetrics Chief Strategy Officer John Squire said.
Cyber Monday promotions -- discounting or free shipping offers -- also helped.
"Last year, retailers reserved their best deals for their physical stores," said Colin Sebastian, Internet analyst at Lazard Capital Markets. "This year, you could find as good or better deals online."
Although online sales constitute less than 5% of overall retail sales, it's still a growing segment that bricks-and-mortar retailers can't afford to overlook, Sebastian said.
Highlighting the growing importance of online commerce is the price war between Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. as both firms ratcheted down online prices for popular gift items such as books and DVDs, helping to draw even more shoppers to the Web.
Coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005, Cyber Monday has become an online phenomenon based on the tendency for people to do much of their online shopping on Mondays.
The day typically gives retailers a 40% to 60% bump in sales over Black Friday online sales, said Andrew Lipsman, director of industry analysis at market research firm ComScore Inc.
"People like to take care of a lot of personal business on Monday, when they are most productive," Lipsman said. "The promotions are a byproduct of this overarching behavior, turning Cyber Monday into an event."
Lipsman estimated that Cyber Monday sales could exceed $900 million, up from $846 million last year. On Friday, consumers spent $595 million, up from $534 million in 2008. ComScore is expected to release its actual figures today.
Buyers were more efficient this year, spending 10% less time browsing than they did a year earlier, with the average shopping session lasting 7.5 minutes, down 51 seconds from 2008.
"People are pretty surgical about what they want," Squire said. "They're also savvier and they're sticking to their lists. This has driven down their time online."
Although Cyber Monday is a significant sales day, it's often not the biggest online shopping day of the year. Another, possibly bigger, bounty of buying is likely to happen Dec. 14, also a Monday, Lipsman said. That's when the shipping deadline strikes for getting the gifts in time to slide under the tree.