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Cyber Monday, fueled by smartphones, sets an online sales record of $6.6 billion

The shift to e-commerce has accelerated, thanks largely to smartphones and other mobile devices, which accounted for more than half of all online sales and nearly 40 percent of revenue.

Screen shot of page, which promoted Cyber Monday deals. Cyber Monday shattered previous records and generated $6.6 billion in online sales.
Screen shot of page, which promoted Cyber Monday deals. Cyber Monday shattered previous records and generated $6.6 billion in online sales.Read moreiStock

Cyber Monday delivered.

Based on final online sales numbers released at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Cyber Monday became the biggest U.S. online shopping day in history, according to Adobe Analytics Data. The use of mobile devices, especially smartphones, accounted for nearly 40 percent of retail visits and 21.3 percent of  revenue.

Propelled by smartphones, mobile devices generated an all-time high of $2 billion for the first time on Cyber Monday. Adobe reported that a total $6.59 billion had been spent online, a 16.8 percent growth year over year, by the end of the day — nearly $1 billion more than last year's Cyber Monday haul of $5.6 billion.

Tuesday's numbers confirmed what had been forecast based on preliminary figures. By 10 a.m. Monday, overall web traffic was up 12 percent, with the season average at 5.7 percent. Mobile devices, setting a new record, accounted for 53.3 percent of visits (44.6 percent smartphones; 8.7 percent tablets) and 39.7 percent of revenue (29.8 percent smartphones; 9.9 percent tablets).

Smartphone traffic had grown 21 percent year over year on Monday morning, while revenue from smartphones rose 41 percent rise, a record.

It didn't hurt that juggernaut Amazon began Cyber Monday sales hours earlier, at 5 p.m. Sunday on devices, electronics, toys and home furnishings, among other items.

Online pitches ranged from off-price retailer Nordstrom Rack ($20 off plus free shipping), to shoe seller Aldo (get 50 percent off plus 20 percent off regularly priced items), to skin-care specialist Kneipp USA (free shipping plus 40 percent off), to apparel retailer Francesca's (30 percent to 65 percent off the entire site) as Cyber Monday specials were sent all day to customers already in their databases.

"Cyber Monday is expected to make history again as the biggest U.S. online shopping day of all time, driving a billion dollars more than last year," Tamara Gaffney, strategic insights engagement group director at Adobe,  said in a statement Monday. "A lot more of this will be happening on smartphones, as well, where smoother buying experiences through auto-fill capabilities are helping drive the growth we see in mobile."

Adobe's retail report is considered by the industry as the most comprehensive set of insights, measuring 80 percent of online transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers. About $7.50 of every $10 spent by consumers online with the top 500 U.S. retailers goes through Adobe Experience Cloud, according to the firm.

Monday's online numbers were "putting tremendous pressure on traditional retailers' bottom lines," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, which tracks 108 publicly traded retailers with negative earnings growth in three of the last four quarters.

"Fourth-quarter retail earnings are expected to be up just 3.7 percent year over year despite facing a very easy -1.6 percent year-ago comparison," he said. "The mass migration to digital is adding to retailers' expenses as each sale costs more to fulfill."

Adobe Analytics reported these statistics since Thanksgiving, when many Black Friday deals began:

  1. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 26, $43.42 billion was spent online,  a 16.8 percent growth year over year. All 26 days thus far have exceeded $1 billion, compared with 24 of 26 days in 2016.

  2. Thanksgiving weekend spending  on Saturday and Sunday brought in  $5.12 billion spent online, 10.1 percent growth year over year.

  3. For Cyber Monday morning, conversion rates were showing growth: desktop 4.8 percent (up 5.3 percent year over year), tablet 4.3 percent (up 1.5 percent year over year), smartphones 2.5 percent (up 12.3 percent year over year).

"The major shifts are in how and where [shoppers] are making their purchases," said Melina Cordero, CBRE head of retail research for the Americas. "Retailers have dedicated more effort and focus to balancing the speed of online sales with the experience of in-store purchases."

Kristin Smedley, 46, of Ivyland, Bucks County, president of the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation, went on on Monday night where she purchased three Eagles jerseys marked 70 percent off for $32.99 and $26.99 – and two long sleeve logo t-shirts for $18.99 a piece after a 65 percent discount, as Christmas gifts for her children.

"I made out like a champ," Smedley said. "I was determined not to miss these deals. I couldn't believe the prices, and I thought 25 percent off on Black Friday was good. I'm ecstatic."