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How we shopped on Cyber Monday – and what the shopping season still holds in store

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Christmas shoppers went online in force to buy this Cyber Monday, according to multichannel retailers and vendors alike.

The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark found online sales rose by 31.6% during the course of December 3, compared to the equivalent Monday last year, with mobile shopping growing even more strongly, by 94%. Indeed, mobile sales accounted for 33% of all online sales.

Average order values (AOV) rose by 1.4% on last year to hit £81.17, a figure that rose to £82.24 for mobile phone transactions. Meanwhile tablet computers saw a lower AOV of £79.86.

Among the retailers enjoying a Cyber Monday boost was the Duvet and Pillow Warehouse . Its founder, Charlie Hunt, reported sales up by 20% over Cyber Monday – and Tuesday – compared to the previous year.

“There was a lot of talk and media coverage this year ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and sales really lived up to the hype,” said Hunt. “In advance on the weekend we launched a strong consumer offer running for a limited period ending at midnight on Cyber Monday. Our flash sale resulted in our biggest sales peak of our seven year history.”

He said a Beat the Banks newsletter issued in response to the banking glitch on Tuesday helped to lift sales on that day as well. “As a result our combined sales figures from Monday 2nd and Tuesday 3rd of December were up 65% in comparison to the previous two days, a 20% increase on the same two days around Cyber Monday last year. Our ‘Beat the Banks’ newsletter was our most successful newsletter to date with a click-through rate of 15%, a 30% increase on our usual click-through rates.”

Rich media specialists Amplience said Black Friday saw “huge peaks” in ecommerce traffic, falling on Saturday before starting to climb again on Sunday.

“In the UK Sunday saw almost a 250% increase in engagement, as customers researched and investigated products, browsed look-books and style guides before adding to basket or moving to the product page. Interestingly percentage conversion rates to product page were higher on Sunday and Monday than on Black Friday in the UK, suggesting that a higher proportion of site visitors on Friday were still in ‘browsing’ mode,” said Amplience chief executive James Brooke. But, he said, sales were lower than hoped as consumers “tested the waters,” waiting for discounts or promotions. “This approach is endangering retailers, locking retailers and consumers into a ‘who will blink first’ battle with consumers looking for bargains and retailers trying to preserve their margins,” said Brooke. “Discounting is crippling for many retailers, who may end up shifting stock but do so at the cost of not only margin, but also brand equity. In the face of intense competition and pricing transparency, brands and retailers need to ‘up their game’ and find new ways to create loyalty and value.”

Meanwhile load testing specialists Keynote Systems warned of slowing websites as traffic peaked over the week. “Black Friday and Cyber Monday truly came to the UK this year. What was once a US dominated shopping mecca for bargain hunters, now appears to be a UK pre-Christmas deal frenzy, and the sites seem to have felt the pressure,” said Robert Castley, performance management expert at Keynote. “With poor reliability rates and the majority of the sites making consumers wait longer for the sites to load, it is no doubt that for some retailers they will have lost lucrative online business and customer loyalty in this pivotal point of the Christmas shopping season.”

The company is monitoring the performance of 18 popular UK fashion sites to test online customer experience during the busiest shopping period of the year, and found that in the week to December 5, ten out of those sites became slower, compared to the previous week and only five achieved 100% availability when tested.

Among those that slowed, Dorothy Perkins went from a 100% successful load rate last week to 98.81 percent this week, while TopShop dropped from 100 percent to 98.61% the Keynote testing found.

“The high street retailers, well aware of the promotions and marketing campaigns they were running on the week of Cyber Monday, should have been preparing for this day,” said Castley. “By conducting load testing and regular monitoring, they should have had full confidence that their site could cope with the traffic it might attract. From these statistics, however, it’s clear that this wasn’t the case. What should have been a day to encourage consumer confidence in online shopping may have, in fact, had the opposite effect. If slow load times and poorly loading sites didn’t drive customers back to the brick-and-mortar stores, it may have driven them to online competitors, a fate much worse.”

Looking ahead, Tanya Lawler, VP of eBay in the UK, says the coming weekend could be still busier than last weekend. “Ecommerce standards have evolved so that consumers expect faster delivery as well as options to pick their goods up locally if they want to,” she said. “With local services like Click & Collect, people can shop online with confidence right up until 23 December and pick up in store on Christmas Eve which could have a big impact on online shopping times.

“It’s not just about a few busy online shopping days any longer. On eBay, we’re expecting to see a longer peak shopping period running right up to Christmas week, including a double bubble of busy weekends. For retailers selling on eBay, the weekend of 7/8 December could be as big or even bigger than 30 Nov/1 December.”

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