What Is Cyber Monday?

Cyber 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. The result has been a merging of Black Friday and Cyber Monday into a combination in-store and online shopping experience that has blurred the distinction between the two holidays.

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, until 2019, 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.
  • The Black Friday/Cyber Monday movement has inspired other special days including Small Business Saturday and even a day dedicated to charity, Giving Tuesday.

Understanding Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday falls four days after Thanksgiving. It was created to encourage consumers to shop online. Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving—remains the biggest shopping day of the year. While Cyber Monday has traditionally been the biggest online shopping day of the year it was surpassed by Black Friday in 2019.

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers devote increasing amounts of time and energy to online sales to compete with each other as well as with their cyber rivals. For 2020, 96% of retailers expect more of their holiday sales to come from online-only transactions.

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 as to 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 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 almost immediately.

In 2005, sales were $486 million. By 2010, that number hit the $1 billion mark. In 2011, CNBC said for the first time that Black Friday and Cyber Monday had merged into a single Thanksgiving shopping weekend.

By 2016, most major retailers had moved from Cyber Monday to Cyber Monday Week, offering a revolving menu of deals over several days. Amazon was a leader in that movement followed by Kohl's, which extended its Cyber sale into December.

Cyber Monday sales in 2019 reached $7.8 billion partly due to Black Friday sale items selling out then offered again on Cyber Monday, giving consumers a second chance at some of the best deals.

For 2020, the year of the economic crisis and lockdown, 65% of consumers said they planned to change how they shop during the holiday season with most retailers expecting a significant shift to online shopping including more sales on Cyber Monday.

Major Cyber Monday Websites

In terms of Cyber Monday market share, the top online retailers in 2019 were:

  • Amazon - 56%
  • Best Buy - 11%
  • Walmart - 9%
  • Macy's - 6%
  • Ebay - 5%
  • Target - 4%
  • Kohl's - 4%

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 and France came on board in 2008 followed by India in 2012.  

Other countries that have adopted Cyber Monday include Japan, Australia, Colombia, and the UK. China's Singles Day on November 11 (11/11), is the world's largest 24-hour shopping event, surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday in consumer spending by more than 2.5 times. 

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.