The holiday shopping season for online retailers has traditionally been pretty straightforward. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving has been known by brick-and-mortar retailers as the biggest shopping day of the year. It’s also a boon for online retailers. According to Nielsen NetRatings, on November 25th more than 19.2 million unique users visited sites in the Nielsen eShopping Index, which measures traffic to more than 120 online retailers.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as “Cyber Monday,” a block of time that online retailers figure most online shoppers will be back at work after spending the Thanksgiving holiday feasting and laughing with family and ready to start ordering products for Christmas. Most online retailers have counted on Cyber Monday to be the largest online shopping day of the year. According to Nielsen, the traditional idea holds true, with Cyber Monday traffic hitting the 29.5 million mark, while generating more than $608 million in sales according to comScore.
But while Nielsen and comScore register traffic and sales increases across a large number of retailers, some of the larger destinations saw nary a speed bump. According to a recent CNet article, Cyber Monday amounted to little more than a typical holiday shopping day for Amazon.com, which along with eBay and Walmart.com is one of the top 5 most visited holiday shopping destinations.
BusinessWeek ran an article on November 29th downplaying Cyber Monday as mostly hype, attributing sales increases to the simple fact that online retailers run more promotions on that particular day combined with the normal holiday shopping urge.
Clearly, the opinions vary on what promotions to run when.
Amazon.com was one of the companies that jumped the gun, kicking off its four week promotional campaign ahead of the traditional Monday by offering deals that would put even Crazy Eddie to shame. It only took 29 seconds for the online retail leader to sell 1,000 Xbox 360 Core systems for $100 each on Thanksgiving Day.
“We took the door buster deal and added the Amazonian twist to it,” says Amazon.com spokesperson Craig Berman. “We made the prices ridiculous. But in order to make these ridiculous deals, we could only offer one of them. And instead of telling customers what it’s going to be, we let them choose it.”
For a week, Amazon users had been voting on which amazing deal they wanted Amazon to offer: a $100 Xbox, a $30 mountain bike, a $10 Dancing Princess Barbie Doll, or a $40 Amazon.com Prime membership with a $100 gift certificate to the Amazon.com Toys Store. Each week until Christmas, users vote on more promotions. The second week, users chose a portable DVD player which sold at the rock bottom price of $25.00. Again, after going on sale, the product sold out in less than a minute.
Meanwhile Walmart.com, another top online retail destination, took the traditional approach to holiday promotions. They scheduled brick and mortar-style sales to hit the Web on Cyber Monday. During the following week, its website registered more than 30 million hits, fueled by the traditional holiday frenzy, plus the online-only specials.
“The big difference in our strategy this year is the timing,” Walmart.com spokesperson Ravi Jariwala reveals. “We offered our online specials to start on Cyber Monday this year to take advantage of the trend we see of customers, fresh off their trips to stores over the weekend, coming online to shop.”