Online Shopping Sites Drew CyberMonday Crowds

Retailers faced a burgeoning audience yesterday for the much-hyped Cyber Monday, when online retail traffic reached 2,145,558 unique visitors per minute to more than 270 global e-commerce sites, according to Internet traffic cop Akamai Technologies.

That figure, set at 2 p.m. Eastern time, represented a 19 percent increase over last year's Cyber Monday peak for North America. Global traffic, meanwhile, reached 3,530,914 visitors per minute--a 14 percent hike over 2005.

Throughout the day, online retailers vied for shoppers, offering everything from free massage chairs to $100 coupons to smaller gifts. Still, there was no snagging a TMX Elmo, this year's hottest toy. He was unavailable at WalMart.com and ToysRUs.com. Shoppers were urged to check their local stores.

Target.com appeared to suffer a few short-lived glitches as a shopper trolled for toys, going so far as to the checkout line, where she discovered a shipping charge despite the ubiquitous "free shipping" plastered on Target's home page as well as the home pages of nearly every other online retailer except WalMart.com, which offered shipping for 97 cents. Not wanting to bet that the retailer would remove the charge before the final step, the shopper abandoned her cart.

She joined 46,773 other people who abandoned 56,811 carts created during the workday yesterday, according to Think Partnership, an interactive marketing company that compiles such statistics from its network of retailers and through Second Bite Retailers, its cart abandonment recovery tool. The average cart value left behind was $42.18.

Two retailers (of eight sampled here), Overstock.com and Target.com, offered "gift finders," wherein shoppers plugged in the occasion, the recipient's age, relationship to giver and the recipient's interests. One shopper looked for a Christmas gift for her 16-year-old fashion-maven daughter. Up popped the very jacket her daughter had ordered elsewhere online, tried on and returned even though her mother thought it looked nice.

In its two-day sale, BestBuy.com was giving away massage chairs with the purchase of TVs costing at least $999. CircuitCity.com had two coupons available yesterday only: $100 on merchandise over $1,700 and $50 on merchandise over $400.

Amazon.com appeared to have a unique selling proposition. Shoppers can vote weekly on one of four "ridiculously low-" priced items. The highest vote-getter goes on sale--this week at least--at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Other retailers offered online specials--some for just this week, and others on a daily basis.

The National Retail Federation's Shop.org reported that the amount of traffic on its CyberMonday.com, which provided a doorway to retailers and their specials "was so substantial that we had to add a new server to accommodate all of the people who wanted to shop," said Ellen Davis, senior director. "As a result, the site will be up "the entire holiday season with retailers changing their promotions on a weekly or daily basis."

Traffic at CyberMonday.com spiked mid-day Eastern Standard Time with more than 500,000 page views per hour. At 4 p.m., it was continuing at that pace.

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