Record Online Holiday Spending Reflects Consumer Confidence

bigcommerceThis Cyber Monday, consumers showed just how important online shopping is when they spent more than $1.46 billion, according to Internet analytics firm comScore. This 17 percent increase over Cyber Monday 2011 reflects increased consumer confidence, which is particularly good news for online sellers who are seeing far greater increases in sales and revenue. In analyzing the sales of its 30,000 small business clients, eCommerce platform provider Bigcommerce found “small businesses averaged nearly two orders per second on Cyber Monday, equaling a nearly 83 percent increase in orders and 99 percent increase in revenue versus 2011,” reports Eddie Machaalani, Bigcommerce co-founder and CEO. Partially fueled by the eagerness of consumers to “shop small” while purchasing online, the uptick matches the enthusiasm revealed by small businesses. In a recent survey, 82 percent indicated they expected sales this holiday shopping season to well exceed last year. So far, it looks like they were right to be so optimistic.

Already this season, online sales are up 16 percent with consumers spending more than $16 billion. When looking at the Thanksgiving shopping week in total, Internet sellers saw their orders increase by more than 71 percent, with revenue up in excess of 93 percent. “Some of the increase may be due to small businesses having the flexibility to explore new online marketing territories,” notes Mitchell Harper, Bigcommerce co-founder and CEO. “Shoppers want to be helped, not marketed to, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) understand that. They are some of the most genuine social media users, leveraging channels like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to extend their reach to potential customers beyond traditional sales channels.” Small businesses have also begun to think more creatively and strategically about how they promote their products online. “They have not only managed to master the art of social media marketing,” Harper continues, “but also the art of search engine optimization (SEO) to help drive more consumers to their online stores via search engines.”

What this says about online purchasing behavior is that, as consumers become more confident about shopping online, they may look to small retailers and niche and unique products to fulfill holiday gifting needs, Machaalani concludes. “While total revenue still trails behind that of big box online retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target, more and more people are exploring what small businesses have to offer, and are increasingly more confident that they will have a positive shopping experience.”

The gap is narrowing as savvy small businesses use technology to compete head-on with big box retailers at their own marketing game. While online SMBs might not be able to offer steep, flash sale discounts, they can implement promotions that have a positive impact on sales and will help keep the growth up this holiday season, such as free shipping and discounts to make product pricing more competitive and attractive to consumers. The more these trends continue, the better for business owners and consumers. Historically the three-week period prior to Christmas is the busiest time for online shopping, and if previous years are any indication, that same period this year will mark more record sales for online SMBs.