TECHNOLOGY

Amazon touts biggest single shopping day in its history

BY Marianne Wilson

Amazon broke its own record on Cyber Monday.

The online giant announced that Cyber Monday was once again the single biggest shopping day in the company’s history with more products ordered worldwide than any other day. Additionally, the five days starting with Thanksgiving and continuing through Cyber Monday, broke records as customers in the U.S. purchased millions more products over the five day period vs. the same period last year.

All told, Amazon customers worldwide ordered more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined.

Here are some additional holiday weekend highlights from Amazon:
*Sales by small and medium-sized businesses worldwide grew more than 20% on Black Friday year-over-year.

*Throughout the five-day holiday weekend, Amazon.com customers ordered more than 180 million items.

*The best-selling products at Amazon 4-star and Amazon Books over the weekend included the all-new Echo Dot, Becoming by Michelle Obama, the Amazon Smart Plug, and the L.O.L. Surprise Series toys.

*Customers ordered more than four million toys and electronics on the mobile app on Black Friday.

*The best-selling products across Amazon.com on Cyber Monday included the all-new Echo Dot, AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity, Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones for Apple devices, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Jenga, and Instant Pot DUO60 – 6 Quart.

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TECHNOLOGY

Online spending soars on Black Friday weekend

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The online holiday shopping season got off to a strong start as shoppers were out in force over the Black Friday weekend.

Online sales reached a record of $6.22 billion on Black Friday, up 23.6% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day rose 28% to $3.7 billion, making it the fastest-growing day for e-commerce sales in history.

There was a 31.2% increase in traffic this year compared to Black Friday in 2017. Similarly, there was a 3.6% increase in online traffic on Thanksgiving Day, and a 32.6% jump in digital traffic for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, according to Verizon’s “2018 Holiday Retail Index,” a study that tracks daily traffic volume of the top 25 U.S.-based online retailers throughout the holiday shopping season.

When looking at the entire holiday shopping weekend, digital traffic increased 29.86% on Sat., Nov. 24, compared to last year, and it jumped 22.93% on Sun., Nov. 25. Additionally, e-commerce traffic rose, on average, 25.08% daily between Nov. 20 through Nov. 27, according to the study.

“Black Friday is no longer a single day event as we’ve seen a consistent growth in traffic to retail sites through the whole week leading up to Thanksgiving and continued through the weekend,” said Michele Dupre’, group VP retail, hospitality, and distribution for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “With Cyber Monday, the challenge for retailers is keeping consumers engaged through the rest of November and into the early part of December.”

While online sales for the entire holiday season are off to a good start, growth is trending “a little less” than the robust growth seen on Black Friday. Black Friday’s online growth also may have been helped by some unfavorble weather early early in the day on the east coast which kept shoppers at home and out of brick-and-mortar stores, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse.

Overall, online sales growth is on pace to hit 20% for the entire holiday season. Spending on Cyber Monday, which commenced on Nov. 26, will contribute to this volume, and sales are expected to set new records.

The categories with the strongest traction on Cyber Monday are department stores, electronics and interior furnishings, MasterCard’s study reported.

More older shoppers are part of the digital shopping mix this year, with most attracted to free shipping options, crowd avoidance, and ease in finding items. Millennials, on the other hand, are influenced to shop online due to better pricing and promotions online and the ability to compare items, read reviews, the study revealed.

“As expected, online sales stole the show, showing big year-over-year increases, and overall sales on Black Friday and through the weekend were strong, in spite of some bad weather in a number of geographies,” said Keith Jelinek, managing director, retail and consumer practice, Berkeley Research Group.

“We expect Cyber Monday to continue the strong online sales trend,” he added. “As retailers head into the ‘homestretch’ this holiday season, they need to be wary of the heavy promotional activity.  They need to stay competitive but watch the impact to margins – this is being felt by retailers.  A number of retailers have expressed some concerns on how much the big promotions are affecting the bottom line. Bottom line numbers for Q4 – as we saw last year – could take a hit.”

 

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TECHNOLOGY

Digital snafus plague retailers on Black Friday weekend

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Technical difficulties at J. Crew and Lowe’s Companies kept IT and marketing teams busy on one of the most important shopping weekends of the year, especially as frustrated shoppers took to social media to complain about their experiences.

Lowe’s announced Friday afternoon via social media that its website was “down for maintenance.” These outages continued throughout the weekend, including on Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, according to the company’s Twitter feed.

Lowe’s tweeted at 1:58 pm on Nov. 23, “We apologize our website is down for maintenance. It will be available soon. If you need assistance with an order, please contact Lowe’s Customer Care at 1-800-445-6937 (Monday – Saturday, 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.)”

Once the site was restored, the company followed up with a tweet that blamed increased customer traffic due to “our great Black Friday deals” for causing intermittent outages. It also said teams were “working diligently to restore the website to full functionality.”

When Cyber Monday shoppers didn’t fare much better, Lowe’s sent out a similar tweet, this time blaming outages on the high volume of customer traffic taking advantage “of our great Cyber Monday deals.”

Despite the updates, unhappy holiday shoppers fired back on Twitter.

For example, @nycjokerUS tweeted “@Lowes When do you expect to resolve Internal Server Error (500) on your website? Unable to access purchase history and track orders. Looks like the main page and placing orders issues were resolved on Black Friday. #outage”

J. Crew also suffered a technical snafu on Friday, one that kept shoppers from signing into the site and completing orders, according to CNBC. The specialty retailer also kept shoppers abreast via Twitter, posting “Happy Black Friday! Due to high demand, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties with our site right now. Apologies to anyone having a problem…we’re working to fix it ASAP!

The glitch continued well into the evening, according to a Facebook post at 9:40 pm, that said, “ Hi everyone — we’re working as quickly as possible to resolve any glitches that have arisen from the overwhelming response to our Black Friday sale — which will continue tomorrow. We’ll share updates here! Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend.”

Frustrated J. Crew shoppers, including Bong Concepcion, called out the retailer, posting, “The website has been acting up in the past four weeks and is sputtering on the most important shopping day of the year! Time to make some changes in the IT Department.”

Lauren Parker concurred, posting, “Eventually my order submitted late afternoon. Shameful to address at 9:40 pm when issues commenced in the morning. In the time they randomly replied to comments they would have better served their clients by being proactive and transparent with the issues with their website and server.”

Jim Small reminded J. Crew that “This also happened in 2017, time to upgrade your website please!”

The company took the outage in stride, sharing the following Facebook post on Nov. 24, at 10:02 am: “We are so humbled (and obviously somewhat overwhelmed) that our site traffic for this year’s Black Friday sale was far beyond anything we could have anticipated. Our team spent the day doing its best to keep the site accessible for as many of you as possible, but we know that some of you are experiencing technical issues due to the unprecedented response this year. We’re determined to make it right: You’re invited to shop our Black Friday sale at 50% off here: https://jcrew.co/2P4OEbK… all the way through Sunday! Thank you for your continued support and happy shopping. #jcrewalways “

“Avoiding unplanned downtime should always be top of mind for any business, but it’s especially important for retailers as they approach the high-pressure holiday shopping season,” said Rob Strechay, senior VP product, Zerto, a provider of disaster recovery and business continuity software.

“Every minute of downtime can equate to tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue on a normal day. We all know this is much higher during the holiday shopping season,” he said. “These kinds of numbers can make or break a quarter, if not an entire brand. Many retailers are overlooking that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

Amazon suffered its own technical snafu on Wednesday that exposed some customers’ names and emails.

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