(MCT) — Web shopping soared on Cyber Monday, continuing a strong start to the holiday season.
Online sales were up 26.6 percent from last year by Monday evening, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, which tracks data from 500 retail sites. ComScore meanwhile, expected online sales to hit a record of about $1.5 billion by day's end.
Cyber Monday has become the biggest online shopping day in recent years as employees head back to the office but continue to cybershop for holiday gifts. The growth of smartphones and tablets has only increased that ability, an opportunity Web retailers have been eager to exploit.
This year, retailers aggressively pushed "Pre-Black Friday" promotions and flooded consumers with emails touting good deals in the days before Thanksgiving. As a result, the big shopping days of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have blurred into a sale-laden week.
Some retail analysts had worried that strong online sales growth on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday would entice shoppers to buy earlier, threatening revenue later in the season.
"So far, that is not the case," said Jay Henderson, the strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce. "Extending the shopping season has really just fueled additional online spending rather than cannibalizing days later in the season."
Sales across Amazon.com, the largest online retailer, had risen 52 percent from the previous year by midmorning Monday, according to ChannelAdvisor, which offers services to third-party sellers on e-commerce sites. Meanwhile, eBay sales volume increased 57 percent, the firm said.
The average online order size on Cyber Monday was $130.30. That was down from almost $200 during the whole of Cyber Monday last year, according to IBM.
But Monday's discounts on the websites of bricks -and-mortar retailers weren't necessarily as broad or as deep as consumers could find if they shopped in the days before, according to Michael Brim, founder of deal site BFAds.net. "We're not seeing across the board the lowest prices like we do on Black Friday or Thanksgiving," he said. "It's better than the average weekly sales, but it's not on the level of Black Friday … yet," he said.
Most retailers — about 97 percent — were expected to offer Cyber Monday deals this year, up from 90 percent last year, according to the National Retail Federation. That means good deals were there for the finding on sites that might not normally have sales, Brim said.
Laptops and apparel at specialty sites were popular items Monday, Brim said.
Amazon offered $30 off its 7-inch Kindle Fire tablet, which usually sells for $159. The deal was available only on Cyber Monday.
Hoffman Estates-based retailer Sears said it found that a number of its shoppers opted to buy online and pick up merchandise in the store, according to spokesman Tom Aiello, who declined to say whether online traffic increased Monday. Shoppers want "to save on shipping, or they want to touch it — and get it the same day and make sure they've got that gift in their hands," he said.
Tribune news services contributed.