More shoppers are choosing clicks over crowds as the holiday season gets underway.
Black Friday's digital sales hit a record $7.4 billion, according to a survey of 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers by Adobe Analytics. Cellphone purchases drew a record $2.9 billion in sales.
Those numbers likely will get surpassed by Cyber Monday, which consistently ranks as the biggest online shopping day of the year. Adobe predicts Monday's sales event will draw a record $9.4 billion.
Cyber Monday was fashioned by retailers in 2005 when shopping by computer was so new that many people waited until Monday when they were back at work — with faster internet connections — to do some additional holiday shopping.
Major retail chains, including Minnesota's largest players, Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. Inc., have sunk millions into restructuring their supply chains to compete with Amazon on speedy shipping and to create a seamless shopping experience for online and in-store customers. Target said that 80% of shoppers' orders on Sunday were packed up and shipped out of its stores.
"The fundamentals of retail are price, product and convenience. Those fundamentals don't really change," said Michael Sansone, a Minneapolis-based retail consultant at A.T. Kearney.
"If you look at the retail losers, they're on top of one or two. Winners are hitting on all three."
In the battle for clicks, Target and Walmart saw a bigger percentage increase in online activity during the first two weeks of November compared with this time last year, according to an analysis of 1.2 million online transactions by Edison Trends. E-commerce spending at Walmart jumped 51%, while Target rose 47%.
Target launched its week of daily "cyber deals" a day early, on Sunday.
The Minneapolis-based retailer said that 1 million more shoppers used the Target app to shop Black Friday deals compared with last year.
Anne Kelly, founder and owner of Mendota Heights-based JunoActive, an online-only retailer specializing in plus-size women's activewear, said that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are important days outside of spring and summer months.
"Our shoppers are out there shopping for deals like everyone else," she said.
The company launched as a catalog in 1995 — the pre-internet days, Kelly noted — and now she's able to track the "open rates" of e-mails sent to loyal customers and can tweak the kinds of deals that get traction.
"We need to be promotional and keep some excitement in front of customers online," she said. "There's so much noise out there."
A decision to offer a deep discount on a line of black swimwear didn't jump out of the pack ahead of Black Friday, Kelly said.
But by Sunday, interest had picked back up after JunoActive promoted a 25% across-the-board discount with free shipping on orders of $50.
"It has to catch their attention," Kelly said. "If we can stay creative, fun and whimsical, our customers really like that."
About 20% of consumers' holiday budget will be spent in the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation.
Many analysts forecast an increase of 4% to more than 5% in overall holiday spending.