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Cyber Monday is a name for the Monday following Thanksgiving in the United States, when many online retailers begin their holiday sales. The name was inspired by "Black Friday," the Friday after Thanksgiving, which marks the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season for brick-and-mortar retailers, those with physical stores, who offer deep discounts and specials to entice holiday shoppers. The US National Retail Federation's Shop.org coined the term in 2005 based on an apparent increase in Internet traffic and sales on the first day most people return to work after the four-day weekend.
Is Cyber Monday Made Up?
Although the name "Cyber Monday" was invented as a marketing term, there is evidence to support the idea that online sales increase shortly after the US Thanksgiving holiday. Since this is when most holiday shopping in the US starts, sales across retailers tend to be higher overall at this time of year. Many stores that offer pre-holiday and Black Friday sales extend those discounts to the Internet, and often offer different or additional sales only available online. Analysts also say that Internet traffic tends to surge on Mondays, as workers return to the office; although about 2/3 of US households have a broadband Internet connection, a large amount of online shopping is still done from workplace computers.
The Monday after Thanksgiving is not always the biggest day for Internet sales, however — that usually comes on a Monday later in December. For many retailers, customers must order at least a week or two before the holiday if they want their gifts delivered by Christmas, and this is often the busiest time for online sales. Some electronics retailers also save their best sales for closer to Christmas.
The idea of Cyber Monday has caught on with consumers, however, and sales for that day have increased sharply. Between 2006 and 2011, online spending doubled, to over $1.2 billion US Dollars (USD) on the Monday after Thanksgiving. The idea has also spread around the world, with retailers in a number of countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and several others in Europe, offering deals on this day.
Are the Best Sales on Monday?
Many online retailers do offer discounts and savings opportunities for web customers who get their orders in on Cyber Monday. Some online companies also offer incentives and savings options for first-time customers, as well as free shipping. As the term was specifically designed to be a marketing tool, many retailers use it as a way to promote sales early in the season.
Cyber Monday is not necessarily the only time when discounts are offered, however. Although they may promote the Monday after Thanksgiving, many sites do have Black Friday sales that start the previous week or "Cyber Week" sales that last for the full week after. While many of the best deals seem to be offered early in the season, most Internet retailers will offer discounts throughout the holiday shopping season.
The Role of Smartphones
A small but growing percentage of online holiday sales are also made through mobile phones. As more and more consumers have smartphones with Internet access, comparison shopping has become even easier. An increasing number of retailers have apps that allow consumers to look up products in the store before they make their purchase. This allows the potential buyer to compare the item he or she is considering to other similar products, to see if a better deal is available online, and to make the purchase immediately using the phone.
How the Internet Affects Store Sales
The Internet is not only a sales channel; many consumers research their purchases online before going shopping. Many retailers have come to understand that, even for those individuals who prefer to purchase their gifts in stores, the Internet can still be a great marketing tool. Online retailers generally offer a great deal of information along with high-resolution images of their products so that consumers can research them and make purchasing decisions before heading out to shop. While many of the shoppers who browse online shops during Cyber Monday may not purchase their gifts online, the research that they do may lead to in-store purchases a few days later.
This influence works in the other direction as well. Some Cyber Monday sales may be the result of people who could not find what they were looking for — or the price they were looking for — during their Black Friday weekend shopping. For other consumers, seeing the product in the store may help them decide if it's what they want; they may choose to postpone buying it until they can do more comparison shopping online, however.
Many retailers use the Internet in other ways to promote spending both online and in the brick-and-mortar stores. Online advertising is very common, as stores advertise in-store deals on their websites and through email newsletters. Email coupons have become very popular, and often include special codes that allow the same discounts to be credited to in-store or online purchases. Smartphone apps alert consumers to special deals, and may include mobile coupons that don't need to be printed out.