Cyber Monday hits $7.9B in online sales, $2.2B spent via smartphones

Cyber Monday 2018 is likely to be the highest-online selling day of the holiday season this year, and in US e-commerce history, with $7.9 billion in online sales.

Adobe — which tracks trillions of transactions across the U.S. among major retailers online — says that today will see $7.9 billion in sales online when all is tallied, up 19.7 percent on 2017’s figure of $6.6 billion.

Mobile devices accounted for $2.83 billion in sales for the day, another high watermark — neatly 36 percent of all sales, growing the proportion of transactions not on desktop. Smartphones were the majority of that activity. They alone accounted for 27.7 percent of sales, or $2.2 billion.

Mobile also accounted for 54.3 percent of visits to retail sites, versus 34.7 percent for desktops and 6.4 percent for tablets. That’s an increase of 32.1 percent growth in smartphone visits over last year. Smartphones also have accounted for 42.6 percent of sales thus far, or 43.0 percent year-over-year growth.

Among the biggest retail winners, Amazon today said it was the biggest shopping day in its history. Although it didn’t provide sales figures, it said the ‘Turkey 5’ broke records as customers in the U.S. purchased millions more products over the five day period vs. the same period last year, with more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined.

It’s no surprise that Cyber Monday is so strong for online shopping: after a weekend of people juggling brisk online buying with visiting physical stores, and hassling with each other in stores, Monday many went back to work, but the sales kept going.

And so, there was a significant swing to online shopping — driven by promotions on sites (driving 25.3 percent of traffic), paid search (25.1 percent), natural search (18.8 percent) and email (24.2 percent). Social media drove only 1.1 percent of traffic.

The holiday sales season used to kick off on Black Friday, but e-commerce and the trend of shopping whenever you want — and not just when a store is open — has led to sales and seasonal promotions — and shopping — earlier and earlier.

There has, as a result, been $58.5 billion spent this month online so far, up nearly 20 percent over last year, with every day seeing sales of over $1 billion (six have broken the $2 billion mark).

On Black Friday, online U.S. sales hit $6.2 billion, with more than one-third of sales coming from mobile devices. Thanksgiving this year had a record $3.7 billion in sales, while one of the newer “shopping holidays,” Small Business Saturday, rung up $3.02 billion in online sales, said Adobe, up 25.5 percent.

Small Business Saturday kicked off a big Thanksgiving weekend for shopping. Adobe says November 24-25 “was the biggest online shopping weekend in US history” netting $6.4 billion.

Buying started early on Cyber Monday. As of 7 AM PST / 10 AM EST on Monday, consumers had already spent over half a billion dollars — $0.531 billion, specifically — with online retailers by that point. By 5 PM PST, the total for the day reached $6.2 billion.

“As in past years, we expected that Cyber Monday deals would entice early shoppers kicking off one of the largest online shopping weeks of the year,” the analysts at MasterCard said. “Our initial early numbers are showing that overall online retail sales this morning are in line with the season expectations and will likely set new records for this individual day.”

But it’s not only daytime shopping that will net large returns for retailers.

Adobe estimates that the “three golden hours of retail”, between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am Eastern, brought in $1.7 billion, “roughly $300 million more compared to an average full day in the year.” The idea here is that shoppers catch final Cyber Monday deals right before bed or after work on the west coast. Subsequent conversion rates peak above 7.3 percent for the season (almost 2.5 times higher compared to the rest of the year).

But these are estimates, and so you are bound to get a lot of variation.

MasterCard provides a slightly more conservative figure: its SpendingPulse analytics predict that total sales “could exceed” $3 billion. It also estimated that last year’s Cyber Monday sale day brought in no more than $2.4 billion.

While Adobe says that it builds its estimates by tracking transactions at 80 of the biggest retailers online in the U.S., Mastercard tells us that SpendingPulse uses “national retail sales across all payments types in select markets around the world. The findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check.”

The real numbers may lie somewhere in the middle.

More generally, strong sales today indicate just how big so-called shopping holidays — and their marketing push — have become for e-commerce.

“Despite some of the best deals coming earlier in the holiday season, the Cyber Monday brand has great staying power. Many shoppers have waited on certain purchases, with three hours tonight expected to bring in as much revenue as an average full day. While certain discounts have remained since Black Friday, out-of-stock rates are starting to peak up and shoppers looking for the hottest products should not wait much longer,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights.

Buying trends

While smartphones have a clear role to play in sales, it’s not an evenly-distributed trend. Adobe noted that larger reatilers (over $1 billion/year in sales) have better tech in place for converting browsers to buyers. Smaller retailers did better with desktop sales.

And generally, mobile is becoming an increasingly credible platform:

Converting mobile traffic to sales has long been a thorn in the side of retailers, but investments in making the experience faster and easier have paid off,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights. “Cyber Monday shoppers relied heavily on their mobile devices, resulting in an unprecedented 55.6 percent year-over-year increase from smartphones alone. Additionally, Buy Online Pick Up Instore saw a record 65% increase, signaling that retailers are increasingly fulfilling consumer expectations for integrated cross-channel experiences.

The report also suggests that Cyber Monday was the best day to buy TVs (18 percent discounts) anf computers (17.8 percent), with toys doing best the Sunday before.

Out-of-stock levels were above average at 2.4 percent, working out to $187 million in lost sales.

Denver was the biggest when it come to basket size ($163), with $157 in San Francisco, $156 in New York, $156 in Portland and $154 in Seattle/Tacoma. The nationwide average was $138, up 6.1 percent.

Additional reporting: Sarah Perez