(NECN: Peter Howe, Lexington/Cambridge, Mass.) - There's no question that Cyber Monday is the most heavily hyped day of online shopping -- crazy deals like 60-inch high-definition TV's for just $600 at BestBuy.com and $5 bluetooth phone headsets at Staples.com as millions of Americans go back to work after Thanksgiving break and promptly start goofing off, shopping on the office computer.
But something funny: It's not the biggest day of the year for online shopping, or even in the top five. Cyber Monday, according to web traffic experts CompuScore.com, is likely to rank somewhere between 7th and 9th for top spending days of the year, with the peak coming in mid-December as in-time-for-Christmas shipping deadlines kick in.
"It's really 'cyber season' -- it's not just Cyber Monday,'' says e-commerce expert Kelly O'Neill of ATG in Cambridge. While it's a huge promotional day, Cyber Monday isn't the crucial kickoff it was, say, a decade or so ago when home broadband connections were scarce and people counted on using a stronger office connection for shopping sessions.
"If you look at the data from this past weekend, there are huge increases of people shopping online on Black Friday,'' O'Neill said. "Rather than fight the crowds at the mall, kick back on the sofa and shop away.'' On Thanksgiving Day itself, online shopping was up a whopping 28 to 33 percent over last Thanksgiving, according to several surveys.
"It doesn't just end on Cyber monday. It's extended out really to a three-week window,'' agrees Jonathan N. Ranger, director of benchmarks for Compuware Gomez, which monitors e-commerce websites to make sure they work when competition for sales is toughest. "It can be a pretty big challenge to make sure that retailers are staying ahead of user expectations when it comes to performance of websites,'' Ranger said, because one thing online shoppers aren't: patient. "Typically they're willing to wait approximately two seconds for any page to load,'' Ranger said, and if a commerce transaction doesn't process quickly, it's not just one online shopping cart that gets abandoned. "That doesn't necessarily influence that visitor's decision to buy that day -- it may well influence their decision to buy at all" ever, Ranger said.
One other notable trend: Far more Americans will make a purchase using their smartphone today. According to the National Retail Federation, 7 million Americans were expected to shop online by smartphone today, up from 4 million last year.
"It offers a whole new opportunity for Cyber Monday,'' O'Neill said. Citing examples like American Eagle and Best Buy, O'Neill said, "There are particular brands that recognize mobile as being a key strategic driver for their business."
With videographer Kevin Krisak