Growth online is contrast to sluggish holiday sales in physical stores as shoppers are lured by convenience of the web.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Cyber Monday sales surged to a new record as more holiday shoppers skipped physical stores for the convenience and deals offered by Amazon.com, eBay.com, Groupon and other websites.
"Things are off to a really good start," said Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, which helps merchants sell more through online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay and other web channels including Google. "Cyber Monday numbers were really impressive."
Cyber Monday sales rose 16% to a record $2.29 billion, according to Adobe Systems, which tracks activity on roughly 2,000 U.S. retail websites. IBM's Digital Analytics Benchmark, which tracks transactions from about 800 retail sites, put the sales increase at almost 21% compared to a year earlier.
Cyber Monday is the first full work day after Thanksgiving when employees get back to their desks and use their office computers to buy gifts. But with the recent boom in mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, online shopping has expanded beyond this traditional activity.
This year's Cyber Monday capped the highest five-day online sales period on record, according to IBM. From Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday online sales climbed 16.5% percent over the same period in 2012. Mobile devices accounted for more than 17% of Cyber Monday sales, up 55% from last year.
"Broader e-commerce data points from the past few days have been coming in ahead of initial expectations," Eric Sheridan, an analyst at UBS, wrote in a note to investors Tuesday.
Growth rates of 15% to 20% are higher than forecasts before the holiday shopping period which projected growth in the low teens, he noted.
The growth is a stark contrast to sluggish overall retail sales this holiday. The National Retail Federation reported that spending over the Thanksgiving weekend dropped 2.7% compared to a year ago. On the crucial Black Friday shopping day, online sales accounted for 44% of the total, up from 41% last year, the NRF noted.
Shoppers are shifting more of their holiday purchasing online for several reasons, according to UBS's Sheridan. E-commerce websites are more convenient than physical stores, more deals and promotions are on the web now, more people have mobile devices which makes it easier to shop online and hot holiday items that sell out quickly are often still available on the Internet, the analyst explained.
Amazon, the world's largest Internet retailer, was among the strongest on Cyber Monday and through the five-day period that started with Thanksgiving.
ChannelAdvisor clients saw Amazon sales jump 46% on Cyber Monday and 35% through the "Cyber Five" period from Thanksgiving through Monday.
Amazon included items from third-party merchants on its deal pages for the first time this holiday season, which likely boosted sales. The company also spread out its deals throughout Cyber Monday and across the early holiday shopping period as a whole, rather than launching promotions all at once, which kept consumers coming back to its website, Wingo explained.
ChannelAdvisor clients saw sales on eBay.com climb 30% on Cyber Monday and 32% during the "Cyber Five" period. While that was below Amazon's growth rate, expectations were a lot lower for eBay heading into the holiday period.
EBay benefited as video game consoles from Microsoft and Sony and hot toys including Lego, Skylanders and Monster High dolls sold out quickly, forcing shoppers to search for re-sellers offering them on eBay.com.
EBay shares rose 1.1% to close at $51.93 Tuesday, while Amazon fell 2% to $384.66.
Groupon shares jumped 3.9% to $9.09 after the online deals provider said Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the two largest days in North America in the company's history. For the four-day extended Thanksgiving weekend, billings were up almost 30% compared to the same period last year, the company added.
"Groupon is benefiting from stronger consumer demand and rising mobile purchase activity," Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, wrote in a note to clients. "This data point should serve as a short-term catalyst to lift shares that have been lagging the broader market rally."
Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, said its website walmart.com had its biggest online sales day ever on Cyber Monday. The site handled more than one billion page views from Thanksgiving through this Monday, it added.
Last year, online sales drooped in the middle of the holiday season, so it is unclear whether the strong start to the 2013 online shopping period will continue, Wingo said.
Wal-Mart will try to keep consumers buying online by continuing its promotions. The company said Tuesday that it will offer 200 online specials each day through Dec. 6.