What is 'Cyber Monday'

Cyber Monday, also known as "Black Monday," is an ecommerce term, referring to the Monday following the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. As brick and mortar stores do with Black Friday, online retailers will usually offer special promotions, discounts and sales on this day; traditional retailers will offer exclusive, "website only!" deals. It's known as the unofficial start of the online holiday shopping season.

BREAKING DOWN 'Cyber Monday'

While Black Friday remains the biggest shopping day of the year overall, Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day. E-tailers often herald their promotions and sales prior to the actual day in order to compete against the Black Friday offerings at brick-and-mortar stores. For example, Cyber Monday deals are now available at both Walmart's and Macy's websites from 12:01 A.M. on Thanksgiving Day. As a result, in terms of overall sales figures, Cyber Monday is quickly catching up to Black Friday.

Sales Bump

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

One 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 related the phenomenon to the unpleasant experience Thanksgiving-weekend shopping had become. 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. Tough choice.

With its official naming, the day became designated as one for deals and discounts – reinforcing its popularity. That year, in 2005, Cyber Monday sales rose 26%, to $486 million. By 2011, they'd 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 make 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 (including HP.com and BestBuy.com) crashed altogether. Even so, ecommerce sales hit record highs, around $2.4 billion. But 2016 set a new record: Total sales numbers for Cyber Monday were $3.45 billion, up 12% from the year before, according to Adobe Digital Insights.

Major Cyber Monday Websites

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

  • Amazon.com
  • Walmart.com
  • Target.com
  • Best Buy.com
  • JCPenney.com
  • Macys.com
  • ToysRUs.com
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