Cyber Monday totalled $9.2B in US online sales, smartphones accounted for a record $3B

Cyber Monday — the final day of the extended Thanksgiving weekend that traditionally kicks off holiday season spend — broke another e-commerce record: US shoppers racked up a total of $9.4 billion in online sales, according to figures from Adobe.

To put that number into some perspective, at its peak, consumers were spending $12 million per minute; this was the first day to see sales via smartphones break the $3 billion mark; and this was $1.5 billion more than shoppers spent on Cyber Monday a year ago (remember the days when breaking $1 billion was a big deal?). There has been $81.5 billion spent online since the beginning of November.

On the other hand, there is an undercurrent of more sluggish buying than had been anticipated. Following the pattern set during Thanksgiving and Black Friday which fell short of its predictions, the total was just on target, rather than surpassing, what Adobe had expected for the day. Adobe expected an increase of nearly 19%.

(And it should be noted that a forecast for sales Salesforce was even more conservative: it projected that Cyber Monday sales would total $8 billion in U.S. sales and $30 billion worldwide — representing 15% and 12% year-over-year growth, respectively.)

That’s despite very aggressive pricing on the part of online sellers. “Retailers unlocked sales earlier to combat a shorter shopping season, while continuing to drive up promotion of the big branded days including Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” said John Copeland, head of Marketing and Consumer Insights at Adobe, in a statement. “Consumers capitalized on deals and ramped up spending, especially on smartphones, where activity increased on days when shoppers were snowed or rained in.”

Top items sold on the day included Frozen 2 Toys, L.O.L Surprise Dolls, NERF products, Madden 20, Nintendo Switch, Jedi Fallen Order, Samsung TVs, Fire TV, Airpods and Air Fryers. One report claims Apple may have sold as many as 3 million pairs of AirPods from Black Friday until Cyber Monday. (RIP my bank account.) The best deals on the day were for TVs (19% savings on average).

The final figures for the day might have a slight shift as Adobe finishes all of its tallies. It follows a morning total of $473 million, and sales passing the $5 billion mark at 5pm Pacific time — a sign of just how much shopping online — more than $4 billion — happens in the evening hours (indeed, some refer to them as the “golden hours” of retail).

(Adobe’s forecasts and reports are based on over 1 trillion visits to U.S. online retail sites and 55 million SKUs. And its Adobe Analytics service is able to measure transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. retailers.)

While Black Friday’s online shopping has seen brick-and-mortar stores competing for the same shoppers, and Thanksgiving still has a seam of tradition underpinning it that keeps some people away from consumerism, Cyber Monday is the day of sales and shopping perhaps most dedicated to the pursuit of product procurement via the web. Folks are back at work, and less likely to go into physical stores, but they’re still shopping for holiday bargains.

The $3 billion of products purchased via smartphones accounted for about one-third of all sales. In itself, this is huge, as smartphone growth was up 46%: in other words, smartphone growth is outpacing and very much driving overall growth of online sales.

Browsing continues to also be popular but is growing less fast: smartphones drove 54% of all site visits, up 19% on a year ago. This makes sense since people might casually look for deals while on the go, but when it comes to sitting down and doing all the fiddly parts of entering card numbers and addresses, people opt for more comfortable keyboards and larger screens.

Some of the trends that Adobe picked up in the days leading up to Cyber Monday are continuing to be played out. These include the fact that the big are getting bigger. That is to say, larger e-commerce giants, with sales of over $1 billion annually, continue to make the most during these huge promotional periods.

Their sales have gone up 71% this year, compared to smaller retailers’ share going up by just 32%. They saw a 71% boost in revenue so far, while the smaller online retailers saw a 32% boost.

Part of the reason for this is because larger retailers can give bigger discounts; because they simply have larger ranges of items; and lastly because they have a more flexible range of choices when it comes to delivery. Adobe noted that the trend of “buy online, pickup in-store/curbside” services was up 43% over last year. 

Through this weekend, consumers spent $7.4 billion, including “Small Business Saturday” and “Super Sunday,” which are newer terms for the big shopping days after Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

In addition to the usual factors that influence Cyber Monday sales, this year’s shopping period may get a boost from the bad weather, too (storms are currently swirling around different regions of the US). When extreme weather arrives, shoppers tend to stay indoors and shop at home. On Black Friday, for example, states that recorded more than two inches of snow saw a 7% bump in online sales.

“Online shopping received some unexpected boosts this holiday season. Retailer fears of a shorter season meant that deals came much sooner than usual, and consumers took notice. In some areas of the country, adverse weather in the form of snow and heavy rain meant that many opted to stay home instead and grabbed the best deals online. Just look at Black Friday, which brought in $7.4 billion online and is just below last year’s Cyber Monday at $7.9 billion,” said Taylor Schreiner, principal analyst and head of Adobe Digital Insights.

“Consumers are reimagining what it means to shop during the holidays, with smartphones having a breakout season as well. We expect that consumers will spend $14 billion more this holiday season via their phones,” Schreiner added.

Last but not least, another trend Adobe is tracking points to why the biggest online retailers like Amazon are getting increasingly involved in the advertising business. Adobe notes that paid search accounted for 24.4% of sales (up 5.2% on last year), more than three percentage points more than actual direct traffic (21.2% and declining). “Natural” search accounted for 18.8% of sales, while email accounted 16.8% (up 8.9% YoY). Social media, as a category, has “minimal impact” when it comes to driving online sales (just 2.6%) but — true to form — it’s proving to be a big influencer, driving some 8% of visits and up 17.5% over a year ago.

Updated with final figures from Adobe

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