What Is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday, also known as Black Monday, is an e-commerce term referring to the Monday following the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. As brick and mortar stores do with Black Friday, online retailers usually offer special promotions, discounts, and sales on this day. Meanwhile, traditional retailers offer exclusive, website-only deals. Cyber Monday is considered to be the unofficial start of the online holiday shopping season.

Key Takeaways

  • Cyber Monday is an e-commerce term referring to the Monday following the Thanksgiving weekend.
  • It is the second-biggest shopping day and the busiest day for online sales.
  • The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation.
  • Although Cyber Monday had its origins in the United States, it now happens in other countries as well.

Understanding Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday always falls four days after the American Thanksgiving holiday. It was created to encourage consumers to shop online. While Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving—remains the biggest shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year and the second-largest shopping day overall.

Like Black Friday, both online and traditional retailers spend a lot of time and effort coming up with sales to beat the competition and use aggressive marketing strategies to get consumers to shop on their websites. They often herald their promotions and sales prior to the actual day, not only to compete against the Black Friday offerings at brick-and-mortar stores, but also to compete with their online rivals as well.

Consumers relish Cyber Monday for several reasons. Many people don't want to spend time away from family during the holiday just to get a bargain, while others don't want to wait in the long lines that form on Black Friday. Cyber Monday provides consumers with a convenient, hassle-free way to shop and cash in on some great deals. And with many retailers now offering free shipping as an incentive to shop on Cyber Monday, it makes shopping online even more attractive.

Although Cyber Monday had its origins in the United States, it is now an international concept. Many e-commerce companies around the world use the term to market promotions to boost their sales at that time of year.

Origins of Cyber Monday

The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation (NRF). The trade association noted that web purchases often spiked on the Monday after Thanksgiving in prior years. There were a few different theories why this was so.

One theory suggested that people saw items in stores and shopping malls over the weekend, but waited until Monday to buy them at work where they had computers with faster internet connections. Remember, in the early 21st century, there were no smartphones or tablets, and high-speed, broadband options for residences were in their infancy.

Another theory attributed the phenomenon to the unpleasant experiences brought on by the Thanksgiving weekend. If you were looking to land some phenomenal post-Turkey Day bargains, you could skip the family feast, camp out in the parking lot of your favorite store, and fight your way through a mob of rabid bargain hunters at the break of dawn on Black Friday. Or you could roll out of bed on Monday morning, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and browse the web for rock-bottom prices.

Cyber Monday Milestones

With its official naming, Cyber Monday became designated as one for deals and discounts, reinforcing its popularity. Specifically, there was a huge impact in year one. In 2005, sales rose 26% to $486 million. By 2011, that number hit the $1.25 billion mark. In 2012, a CouponCabin.com survey found that 42% of consumers planned to scope out the deals on Black Friday, but defer their purchases on Cyber Monday.

In 2014, the Cyber Monday online deals—which, by this time, were often available on Black Friday as well—were so appealing, many shopping websites were overwhelmed with visitors. While some sites slowed to a snail’s pace, others such as HP and Best Buy, crashed entirely. Even so, e-commerce sales hit record highs, around $2.4 billion.

Online retailers and traditional retailers use aggressive marketing strategies to get consumers to shop on their websites.

Each year's sales top the last. Total sales for Cyber Monday in 2017 were $6.59 billion, up 91% from the year before, according to a report released by Adobe Analytics. The group reported an uptick in sales for Cyber Monday in 2018 as well, with a record $7.8 billion spent by online shoppers that year.

Major Cyber Monday Websites

For store-specific sales, the biggest participants of Cyber Monday include:

  • Amazon
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Best Buy
  • JC Penney
  • Macy's

Cyber Monday Goes Global

As noted above, Cyber Monday started out in the United States in 2005 but has since become an international marketing term. Canada adopted Cyber Monday in 2008, as did France. New Zealand online retailers began marketing Cyber Monday, while Australia, India, and Japan began their own versions of Cyber Monday in 2012.

Beyond Cyber Monday

The Black Friday-Cyber Monday mania has sparked other days dedicated to specific industries. Small Business Saturday falls on the day after Black Friday—generally the last Saturday in November. This day was launched in 2010 as a way to pull consumers away from large, big-box retailers, and draw them to shop with local small businesses.

Giving Tuesday falls on the Tuesday after Cyber Monday. This day was first introduced to consumers in 2012 as a way to promote charitable donations during the holiday season, and to counter the commercialization and consumer culture of the Thanksgiving season. Many large corporations such as Google, Facebook, and UNICEF have since become partners for Giving Tuesday, with pledges to match donations made by employees and the general public.