David Zax

A View from David Zax

Apple Products Drove, Profited from Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday comes of age, goes mobile, and gets fuel from Apple.

  • November 29, 2011

Six years ago, Cyber Monday was novel enough to require quotation marks when used in a headline. Today, as e-commerce becomes more and more important in our lives, it has become canonized as one of the most lucrative shopping days of the year. Today, IBM reports a record-breaking Cyber Monday for 2011–one that was particularly enriching (along with Black Friday) for Apple.

The total spending is still being tallied (and in a sense, Cyber Monday will be continuing throughout the week, as online retailers continue to offer discounts to capitalize on the excitement). Analysts had been projecting $1.2 billion in spending, up from last year’s $1 billion.

Still, IBM’s cloud-based analytics have crunched the numbers that have come in so far, and the results are already very interesting. Online sales were up 33 percent over 2010; the average order value increased from about $193 to about $198. Shopping peaked, predictably, around lunch break: 11:05 Pacific/2:05 Eastern. “Strong momentum” in online shopping continued “after commuting hours,” IBM also informs. Mobile traffic and sales grew “dramatically” over last year: 10.8% of people used their device to visit retailers online, versus 3.9% last year. And 6.6% of the sales were mobile this year, up almost by a factor of three from last year’s 2.3%.

How did this year’s Cyber Monday measure up to this year’s Black Friday? IBM has the scoop on that, too: Online sales soared 29% over their Black Friday levels; intriguingly, though, mobile sales were actually higher on Black Friday (9.8%, instead of the 6.6% mentioned above for Monday). Social media was more important in driving sales on Monday than on Friday, though truth be told, the numbers were about the same: 0.56% of online sales on Monday were driven by social networks, versus 0.53% on Friday. Facebook was the primary driver in each case, by far. Social media discussions about Cyber Monday more than doubled in volume over last year’s levels; an especially popular topic of discussion was how to avoid scams. Apple devices were the most common source of mobile retail traffic on Monday (4.1% came from iPhones, 3.3% from iPads); iPad users were the most likely to actually make purchases when they visited a site.

The “Cyber” in Cyber Monday of course refers to the fact that people are using technology–the Internet–to buy what they would otherwise in brick-and-mortar stores. As the New York Times summarized it neatly in 2005: “The name Cyber Monday grew out of the observation that millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday and buying what they liked.”

Even so, there’s a real sense in which this Monday (and Friday for that matter) was “cyber” because so many people were buying technology products themselves. If Apple products helped drive Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they were also the objects of all that consumer lust. Apple broke its single-day sales record on Friday, already exceeding its own lofty projections by 7 PM. Three quarters of retail stores sold out of the iPhone 4S, while iPad sales were up 68%, according to one source.

Apple, then, was perhaps the biggest winner of all over this record-breaking long weekend. Its products enabled a buying frenzy, and that buying frenzy was often focused on its products. Maybe that’s what Apple means by One Infinite Loop.

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