Shoppers use the mobile devices to purchase holiday gifts on Cyber Monday (Photo: Seth Wenig, AP)
(USA TODAY) -- Cyber Monday got off to a fast start, with many sites showing big sales and traffic jumps, despite all the busy online shopping days that preceded it.
As of 6 p.m. ET Monday, online sales at 500 of the top online retailers were up 26.6% over the same period last year, says IBM Smarter Commerce, which tracks Web sales of its clients.
"The reports of the death of Cyber Monday are greatly exaggerated," says Jay Henderson, IBM Smarter Commerce's strategy director. "Certainly, we saw shopping start earlier this year, but it hasn't diminished the growth in sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday."
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There were no early reports of crashes or major slowdowns on overloaded websites.
Websites "in general are better prepared than in prior years," says Brad Wilson of BradsDeals.com. "I think this move to virtual Web hosting in the much-discussed 'cloud' is a part of why the day is better overall," says Wilson.
A final judgment on how successful the day is for retailers wouldn't be called until the very end of the day, says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst for Forrester Research. Online shopping has usually peaked around the middle of the day Monday, but heavy traffic would likely extend through the night this year, she says.
"People have their phones with them or their tablets," she says. "There's going to be a lot of shopping right up until the deadlines of whenever offers are available."
IBM Smarter Commerce says 20.3% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retail store, while 10.2% used a smartphone or tablet to actually make a purchase. As of 2 p.m. Monday, PayPal had almost 200% more volume in mobile payments, compared with Cyber Monday last year.
The two most searched-for products through most of Cyber Monday were the Kindle Fire and Ugg boots, says Experian Marketing Services, a company that helps retailers with digital marketing and analyzing consumer data. The five retail websites receiving the most "Cyber Monday" searches were CyberMonday.com, Target, Amazon, Walmart and MSN.Money, in that order, the Experian data show.
Price comparison website PriceGrabber.com reported about a 17% increase in traffic over Cyber Monday last year as of about noon ET, and CEO Steve Krenzer expected about a 20% increase for the full day.
"I'm just hoping for a Black December to go with this Black week -- Black Wednesday to Wednesday," says Krenzer.
He might get his wish. Economist Chris Christopher of IHS Global Insight said Monday that he expects online holiday retail sales to rise 17% above last year.
"Last year's holiday online retail sales amounted to a little over $67 billion, and this year's holiday online retail sales are projected to be about $79 billion," Christopher says. "This is no longer chump change by any means."
After seeing the traffic and crowds on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Illinois forester Kevin Sorby, was looking forward to online shopping Monday. He was looking for a tablet and shopping on Amazon "with ease" Monday, he said.
"Cyber Monday is my new Black Friday from here on out, " says Sorby.