Cyber Monday Sales Stellar, but Not for Untested Commerce, Mobile Sites

NEWS ANALYSIS: Cyber Monday was one of the best online shopping days in history, but some unprepared retailers missed out on the opportunity while others raked in the dough.

Now that the dust has settled and the Internet is back to whatever passes for normal, it's time for a full accounting of how online retailers made out over the span of time from Cold-Turkey Thursday through Cyber Monday 2012.

The good news is that we can breathe a sigh of relief. The economy is alive and the fiscal cliff hasn't kept people from spending billions of dollars on stuff they wanted for themselves, but claimed they were Christmas presents.

The bad news is that the wealth wasn't spread equally, nor was the ability to spend with total abandon. Some users were let down by their Internet access, and some merchants were let down by their Internet presence. Fortunately, there was still plenty of insanity to go around.

So here's what we know, as reported by IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative: Sales were up on Nov. 26 and everybody really was shopping from their offices when they were supposed to be working. IBM said that overall online shopping was up more than 30 percent from 2011 levels and that the peak shopping time was 11:25 a.m. EST, which is right in the middle of the workday on the East Coast and during the morning workday everywhere else, except maybe on the West Coast. I'd love to see a study on worker productivity during Cyber Monday.

Other news, that may or may not be good, is that shopping from mobile devices, the largest percentage of which was on Apple iPads, was up more than 70 percent. By itself, the iPad accounted for 7 percent of all online shopping, according to IBM. The study found that more than 90 percent of tablet traffic came from iPads.

But there was also some not-so-good news. Not every retailer benefitted equally from Cyber Monday sales. Merchants that haven't made sure their retail Websites were ready for the traffic ultimately sent business to their better-prepared competitors. Shoppers aren't patient when they try to buy something and are rebuffed by a slow or improperly functioning Website.

According to a study by Ipswitch, which makes network-management products, more than 90 percent of the consumers surveyed abandoned a Website because of a poor shopping experience. What's more, shoppers would only give a commerce site two tries before heading over to the competition. The study also noted that more than half of shoppers who failed to get what they needed from a commerce site went directly to the site of a competitor. Worse, a third of shoppers won't buy anything. Only a small fraction would wait and try again later.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...