Small firms lure with Cyber Monday mouse clicks

Small businesses scored bigger than ever on Cyber Monday.

Online shoppers bought so much from independently owned local retailers, each business received almost two orders per second throughout the day, nearly four times the rate of a normal day, according to data from Bigcommerce, a leading e-commerce platform for small businesses.

Orders drove overall revenue up 25 percent compared with last year’s Cyber Monday, and the average order price was 8 percent higher, the data show.

“Small retailers are really embracing e-commerce, and they’re doing it in a confident and bold way,” said Steven Powers, chief revenue officer at Bigcommerce.

While small businesses have trouble steering Black Friday shoppers out of the malls and into their shops, they’re only a click away online during Cyber Monday. This holiday season, small businesses have benefited from a widening net of high-profile public-relation moves this year.

The “Small Business Saturday” promotion by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses drew in $5.5 billion in sales to small businesses and even lured President Obama out of the White House and into a small bookstore in Northern Virginia to buy gifts for his kids.

Similarly, small businesses have started latching on to Cyber Monday via social media – not just leaving the day for the big-box stores.

“It does help level the playing field versus the big boys and the big girls,” said Paul Ballew, chief global economist at Dun & Bradstreet. “The game is so intense out there on the retail front that every retailer is fighting for each and every customer.”

By participating in Cyber Monday, small businesses reached the consumers only the big boys previously did, and they did that more than ever before this year, said Bernard Luthi, chief marketing and operating officer at Rakuten, an online marketplace for small businesses. Luthi said the average shopper bought from more retailers on his site, and spent more money at each one over the previous Cyber Monday.

“Small businesses are realizing, I might just be a small neighborhood mom and pop, but what I am, and what I’m selling is going to have an appeal to people who aren’t just in my neighborhood, but across the country, and in the future, across the globe,” Luthi said.

Bob Cole, owner of World Wide Stereo, based in Hatfield, Pa., had his biggest Cyber Monday ever, but it wasn’t easy. He’d ordered new servers to support the Cyber Monday traffic, but Superstorm Sandy delayed the delivery, so they didn’t come in time. He said the period was especially stressful because his mother had died earlier that month, and most of his family from the Jersey Shore had lost their homes to Sandy and were staying at his house for Thanksgiving.

The next day, the servers crashed and the site shut down. But they pulled through on Monday, Cole said, by borrowing a server from another company, taking orders manually, and rerouting calls through cellphones.

Result: His gross revenue from Cyber Monday was up 15 percent compared with last year.

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