NEW YORK — Shoppers seem to be just as enthusiastic about shopping on their computers and smartphones on Cyber Monday as they were about finding deals over the weekend.
Online sales on Cyber Monday, which was started in 2005 by a retail trade group to encourage Americans to shop online the Monday after Thanksgiving, were up by early afternoon by 20 percent from a year ago, according to data from IBM Benchmark. Meanwhile, sales from mobile devices were up 8.5 percent. The group did not give dollar amounts.
The Cyber Monday numbers point to Americans' growing comfort with using their personal computers, tablet computers and smartphones to shop and retailers' efforts to capitalize on that. Over the years, big chains like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, have been offering incentives like hourly deals and free shipping to get consumers to spend online on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The strong start for Cyber Monday, created by a unit of The National Retail Federation, comes after more people than ever turned out during the kickoff to the holiday shopping season over the weekend, driven by earlier store openings and a push by retailers for online sales.
A record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to the NRF. And sales on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, rose 7 percent to $11.4 billion, the largest amount ever spent, according to ShopperTrak, which gathers stores' data.
Even during the Black Friday weekend, 38 percent of all purchases were made online this year, up from 31 percent to 32 percent last year, said Sherif Mityas, partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney. He says online sales were driven by retailers' promotions.
Barneys, for instance, offered 40 percent off on its website on Thanksgiving Day, a day before it began its sales in stores. And Barnes & Noble offered 40 percent to 75 percent off online products, deals that weren't available in store.
"Retailers are doing a good job of creating more excitement online in ways they can't do in store," Mityas says. "They're creating that excitement of, 'I've got to get that special deal," that is really spurring traffic.'"
It is not yet known how well retailers will ultimately fare on Cyber Monday. But last year, sales on the day topped $1 billion for the first time, making it the heaviest day of online spending ever.
Ahead of this week's "Cyber Monday," the NRF says nearly 80 percent of retailers plan to offer special promotions. And a record 122.9 million of Americans are expected to shop on the day, up from 106.9 million who shopped on "Cyber Monday" last year, according to a survey conducted for Shop.org.
By early afternoon on Monday, traffic was up about 46 percent year-over-year at noon, according to Akamai, a firm that tracks Web traffic said. Traffic has been up substantially since the Monday before Thanksgiving as retailers promoted online deals earlier than ever, says Lelah Manz, Akamai's chief strategist of commerce.
"There has been a huge volume of promotional activity being driven by daily deal sites, Facebook and other social networking sites," she says.
Jamie Minoso is among those who shopped online on Monday. She stayed in on the busy shopping day after "Black Friday," but hit websites on Monday to check out the deals on toys, electronics and pet products online.
"I do not enjoy the traffic and chaos involved in shopping at a mall," she says. "So, if I can get what I am looking for sent to my door for free, I will always take that option."