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Christmas comes early on Cyber Monday

This year’s Cyber Monday attracted 112 million visits to UK transactional websites. With festive shopping changed for good, how is this online boom affecting retailers?

Cyber Monday, which this year fell on December 3, was the busiest online shopping day of the year as consumers stepped up their festive buying.

The forecasts were bold, but shoppers turned out (or rather, turned on) in droves. Over the course of one day, retailers’ websites collectively attracted 112 million visits- an increase of 32% on 2011.

Consumers spent 15 million hours shopping during the 24 hours, according to online monitoring firm Experian Hitwise.

Next accounted for 6.85% of all visits to fashion websites on Cyber Monday, with Asos coming in second at 5.09%. Young fashion retailer New Look took third place with 3.73%. Sally Heath, New Look’s head of buying for multichannel, says: “[Monday] was a massive day, with sales nearly doubling those on the same day last year.”

Young fashion etailer Missguided saw one of the greatest year-on-year growths at 111% and Clarks saw visits rise 86% year on year.

The first week of December has always been of huge importance, as shoppers ramp up their Christmas preparations.

This year, throughout which shoppers have been more restrained in their spending, retailers are hoping to claw back even bigger gains. There are a few factors that suggest this week will have lived up to those expectations, and in particular Cyber Monday.

Crucially, the number of potential shoppers with tablets and other smart devices has skyrocketed. An estimated 5.87 million tablets are owned by UK households, with individual ownership now reaching the 10% mark of the population, according to YouGov figures.

Analysis by IT consultants IBM showed a 194.4% increase in the use of iPads to shop on Cyber Monday 2012, compared with last year, accounting for 10.6% of all online shopping.

“Tablets have made a real difference to the online shopping experience and to the number of people now shopping online,” says Rob Feldmann, chief executive of private Sale etailer BrandAlley.

Improved user experience - both because of the devices themselves and next generation mobile sites - has seen dwell time increase “significantly” to around five minutes per visit, in turn pushing up the amount each person spends.

“We have seen the average basket size increase by £15 and that has largely been driven by people shopping on tablets,” Feldmann says.

Heath agrees. “People are finding it easier to shop online, thanks to mobile sites and the rise of the iPad,” she says.

But while tablets are a core factor, it’s the more general spread of people going online to purchase items that means 2012’s Cyber Monday jumped so much on last year - and also signalled the beginning of Cyber December.

“People know they can order right up until December 19 and still get things delivered in time for Christmas,” Feldmann explains.

Figures from Experian hitwise support this argument. UK consumers are expected to spend 375 million hours shopping online in the last month of the year, 32 million more hours than in 2011 - an increase of 9% year on year.

And a recent YouGov survey shows that 60% of consumers are planning to spend more online this Christmas across the festive period than ever before.

Although Cyber Monday is expected to be the high point of the festive trading season online, the second and third Mondays are also expected to perform significantly ahead of last year, meaning there is more good news ahead for retailers with a digital presence.

Rachel Humphreys, senior manager at Asos Marketplace, the etailer’s secondhand clothing trading platform, tells Drapers that while Cyber Monday was important, it wasn’t her sole focus. “While we’ve seen great results from targeting Cyber Monday in the US [on November 26] as well as here, our focus is across the entire peak trading period,” she says.

This means it is now more essential than ever that retailers get it right when it comes to logistics, as consumers know what is an acceptable delivery time.

“Ultimately, when Christmas presents fail to arrive, it will be the retailer that bears the brunt of disgruntled customers and negative publicity,” says Paul Doble, director of DX, a logistics and parcel distribution company.

James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian Marketing Services, agrees: “Understanding what people are interested in, the best channels to engage customers through and when to reach them will be crucial to success this Christmas.”

Indeed, it seems as though 2012 has become the year of the digital tipping point. Experian Hitwise research predicts that by 2018, more than half of the population in at least 500 towns will have become frequent online shoppers.

As has been well documented in Drapers, the high street is suffering as a result of the rise of ecommerce and Christmas is no exception.

The British Retail Consortium predicts that Saturday, December 22 will be the busiest day for retail in the calendar year. The average daily spend in the UK retail sector is £800m, with the Saturday before Christmas taking up to three times more.

But figures from Experian Hitwise show that far from being incremental for the whole sector, Cyber Monday might well be eating into the high street’s slice of the pie. Footfall figures over the weekend (December 1 and 2) fell 1.9% across the UK compared with the same weekend last year.

Retailers anecdotally speak of a change in shopping habits that became concentrated over Christmas.

“Customers still want to go out on to the high street to look for products and that’s not going to change,” Feldmann explains. “But what is happening increasingly is that customers are using the high street to browse and then going home to buy online.”

Heath adds: “They tend to do all their research in store at the weekends and then come home to buy it online.”

Story in Numbers

112m - visits to etailers expected on Cyber Monday

32% - more visits to etailers expected on Cyber Monday than in 2011

375m - hours expected to be spent shopping online by UK consumers in December 2012

15,000 - parcels were not delivered on time after being bought on Cyber Monday last year

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