Those sounds you can almost hear are countless, ringing virtual cash registers. It's Cyber Monday, and projections indicate it will be a record-breaker.
While sales in brick-and-mortar stores this past Black Friday increased 7 percent over last year, per ShopperTrak, online sales jumped even more. Black Friday saw a 26 percent gain in Internet sales over last year, according to comScore, for a total of $816 billion. More than 50 million Americans shopped online on that day. And an estimated 123 million Americans are expected to make purchases Monday, pushing sales to a record $1.2 billion -- a 15 percent increase over 2010.
Shopping from Mobile Devices
That Cyber Monday estimate comes from a survey for Shop.org by BIGresearch. It found that 78 percent of all retailers are scheduled to have a special promotion for the day.
Vicki Cantrell, Shop.org executive director, told news media that "retailers have invested heavily in mobile apps and related content," and many online stores are featuring sales that last only an hour or that offer deep discounts of specific product lines.
A key factor in this year's online sales, according to Shop.org, is the use of smartphones and other mobile devices to make purchases. The organization notes that the number of American shoppers intending to use their mobile devices for shopping on Cyber Monday has tripled in just two years, from 3.8 percent in 2009 to 14.5 percent this year. This year's figure is more than twice last year's 6.9 percent.
A report from IBM found that mobile shopping on this year's Black Friday increased to 14.3 percent of all online shopping, compared with 3.2 percent last year. It found that Apple's iPhone and iPad were the most frequently used, followed by Android devices.
About 87 percent of shoppers continue to use their home computer, but nearly 16 percent buy from their work machines, including some overlap between the two -- an increase in shopping-from-work of nearly 4 percent over last year. Online retailers are expecting spikes during lunch hours, as well as early morning and early evening.
'Pulling Out All the Stops'
Social media are also becoming a factor. The IBM report found that 0.53 percent of all Black Friday online sales were the result of referrals from social networks, especially Facebook, which accounted for three-quarters of all shopping-directed traffic.
Perhaps more important, IBM found there was a 110 percent increase in discussion volume on social media sites prior to Friday, with the top topics including out-of-stock concerns, waiting times and parking, and Cyber Monday sales.
Shop.org, part of the National Retail Federation, began using the term Cyber Monday in 2005, after it noticed a spike in online shopping the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., attributes the jump in online shopping to more people feeling comfortable with online purchases, the word-of-mouth generated through social media, and retailers "pulling out all the stops" on sales in order to make up for a "volatile economy."