Watch out, bosses. Cyber Monday sales distractions hit

Online sales not just for Cyber Monday this year

While many bosses may be worrying (rightfully so) that Cyber Monday is slowing down employee productivity, their concerns should extend beyond today.

Online shoppers this holiday season were expected to do some significant buying on the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is generally one of the biggest shopping days of the year. About 121 million Americans are expected to shop online today, also known as Cyber Monday, according to a survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

While that's a significant number, it's a decline from the 126.9 million Cyber Monday shoppers in last year's survey. A total of 4,281 consumers participated in the survey conducted over the weekend.

The number is also up from the 103 million people who shopped online over the past weekend, including the popular Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving.

"Unlike 10 years ago, we live in a world in which you can shop anywhere at any time," said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation. "It's no longer about one day, but a season of digital deals, and savvy online shoppers are ready to see what exclusive promotions retailers have in store for Cyber Monday before they checkout."

One of the factors making this year's e-commerce season stand out was the number of sales that began several weeks before Thanksgiving arrived.

The extra time gave shoppers – both in brick and mortar stores and online – more for finding the best deals.

"Shoppers have seen promotions roll out for the past several weeks, but if the price is right on Cyber Monday, they'll definitely show up ready to spend," Shay said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he has been watching for holiday sales and was quick to make a purchase this morning.

"I was on Facebook and saw an ad for Amazon's 10 best deals," he said. "I clicked on the link and bought one of them. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are powering up, with notifications in Facebook and Twitter, and mobile coupons."

Holiday shopping deals won't end today, Kerravala said.

"I think it will expand and there will be Cyber Monday deals for a longer period of time," he noted. "We won't have one big day but a number of smaller ones that probably exceed what a single Cyber Monday would have been."

While that's good news for shoppers, it also means employers will be dealing with workers who may get distracted in the office with online deals for a good portion of the next month.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said there will be a lot of online temptation for the next several weeks.

"I think with all these online deals out there, workers are distracted a bit," he said. "On Amazon, for instance, you could literally come to the site every hour to see a new deal… Cyber Monday could be seen as just the beginning of the big online shopping season."

The National Retail Federation reported today that mobile devices are becoming important shopping aids.

The organization reported that 29.6 million, or 24.4% of online shoppers, said they will use their mobile devices to shop on Cyber Monday. That's compared to the eight in 10 online shoppers who said they will use their home computers to shop online.

People may be increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to shop, but that doesn't mean they're making purchases via their devices.

Instead, many consumers are using their devices to find the best deals while they're out and going from store to store.

According to the NRF, the average online shopper spent $299.60. Of course, not all of that shopping was going toward gifts. An average of $229.56, or 76.6% of total purchases, went toward what people said were holiday gifts.

While it's good news for retailers that people are spending some of their money online, popular e-commerce sites need to be ready for the added traffic.

Target's website was reported to be struggling under the load of Cyber Monday shoppers and endured crashes and slowdowns this morning, although service seemed to have improved this afternoon. Target could not be reached for comment.

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