The official start of the holiday online shopping season, or the Monday after Thanksgiving, rang up $733 million in sales, according to ComScore. The total, up 21% from last year's $608 million, represents the largest-ever day of online shopping.
But the record isn't expected to hold for even two weeks. The second Monday in December beat Cyber Monday last year, and it's expected to do it again on Dec. 10.
The dreaded deadlines
Ellen Davis, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation, said the second Monday in December is generally the day when online shoppers start to get desperate because pre-holiday shipping deadlines are rapidly approaching.
Shop.org, the National Retail Federation's online division, estimated 72 million people would at least browse online on Cyber Monday.
This year, Cyber Monday has been embraced by shoppers and non-shoppers alike, getting front-page and top-story placement at major news outlets. Billed as the online equivalent to Black Friday, it's enjoyed nearly the same coverage, even though the in-store shopping extravaganza rang up more than $10 billion in sales, according to ShopperTrak. And while online shopping still gets a smaller share-of-wallet than in-store purchases, Cyber Monday sales would seem to be disproportionately smaller.
"[Cyber Monday] definitely is a media darling, and a lot of that might be enhanced this year given the economic status," said Kelly O'Neill, director of e-commerce product marketing at Art Technology Group. "If you can show a lot of people going to the cash register, that lends a lot of goodwill, and so it's a message that a lot of people will carry. So much of spending is tied up in confidence."
Ms. O'Neill, who represents a variety of retailers including Sephora, American Eagle, Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton, said she doesn't encourage her clients to advertise Cyber Monday specials, but to reinforce brand promises online, which can be carried throughout the year.
"Cyber Monday is an interesting way to rally the troops and the shopping community around, and say, 'OK, it's the season and time to start holiday shopping,'" she said. "But in terms of its impact over the entire season, I think it's overhyped."