December 2nd, 2013 by Sarah Sluis

131 million people are expected to shop online today making purchases totaling $2 billion, making it the biggest online shopping day of the year, according to predictions by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and ComScore. While Cyber Monday is big business, online shopping now more closely resembles retail shopping. Many consumers shop online on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and through the weekend, especially as retailers stagger their deals and provide more incentives from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday and beyond.

On Thanksgiving, online sales were up 21 percent to $766 million. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 53.5 percent of retailers offer deals specific to that day, not too far off the four-fifths of retailers who provide deals specific to Cyber Monday.

Walmart's Cyber Monday homepage

Walmart’s Cyber Monday homepage

The news this year is good. On Black Friday, online sales totaled $1.2 billion, a 15 percent increase from last year, according to ComScore. Today, sales are expected to top $2 billion, according to ComScore.

Over the weekend, the average shopper spent $177 online, compared to $407 in stores, according to the NRF. An estimated 59 million people shopped online, a little more than a third of total in-store shoppers. It makes sense that people braving crowds are more likely to buy big-ticket items like TVs and tablets. Online shoppers also bought electronics, but the most popular online category was clothing.

Online shopping is still just a tiny slice of total retail purchases, but it’s been experiencing double-digit growth. The term Cyber Monday sprung out of a Shop.org press release in 2005, touting the day as one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Back then, workplace internet connections helped drive sales during business hours. Today, it’s just as common to be browsing for sales on your laptop from your couch. Much of the growth comes from changes in consumer behavior, making online shopping more recession-proof. In contrast, in-store sales have been more volatile, dipping more during the recession and remaining relatively flat since.

I’m one of the millennials who spends most of their money online. I myself made a few online purchases on Black Friday, which I shipped 3,000 miles across the country, where I’ll be spending the holidays. I hadn’t necessarily planned on buying anything, but a few deals persuaded me otherwise. Now I can enjoy the holiday with a chunk of my gift-giving out of the way, My family never had the tradition of shopping on Black Friday, so it’s very easy for me to create a tradition out of reheating leftovers while clicking to buy.

That being said, it wouldn’t be the holidays without making the trek through the cold and traffic to the mall at least once. Even Amazon knows that. The online retailer set up kiosks in malls as part of a two-week marketing campaign for its Kindles, a hot holiday item. After the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday wears off, retailers can expect overall sales to be up 3.9 percent, according to the NRF. But online sales? They’ll rise 13 to 15 percent.

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