November 28, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Cyber Monday, you're no Black Friday

There are plenty of happy holiday myths: Santa Claus, elves, flying reindeer, toys that come fully assembled.

Now you can add "Cyber Monday" to that end-of-year fantasy list. Another year has come and gone and, as many predicted, by late in the day on the West Coast, Cyber Monday appeared to be just another busy holiday shopping day.

Retailers, of course, have breathlessly promoted the first Monday after Thanksgiving as a crucial day for online shopping, the day Web cash registers were supposed to be stuffed as bargain hunters got an early jump on holiday gift buying. But in all the effort to hype the day, somebody forgot to tell consumers.

"The holiday season starts like a tide coming in and out beginning in early November. The first tsunami wave hit on Friday."
--Patrick Byrne, CEO, Overstock.com

"We didn't see any unusual (traffic) on the site," said Craig Berman, an Amazon.com spokesman, who added that the company's biggest day last year was December 12.

The term Cyber Monday was coined to help promote online retail and to build an Internet equivalent to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers.

As it turns out, Web stores don't need a new Black Friday. The old one works just fine.

Research firm comScore Networks said that Friday's Internet spending topped $430 million, a 42 percent jump from the same day last year.

"Our sales last Friday were three times higher than any Friday of the previous month," said Patrick Byrne, chief executive of e-tail store Overstock.com. "The holiday season starts like a tide coming in and out beginning in early November. The first tsunami wave hit on Friday."

Friday also saw some top retailers struggling to service all the visitors to their site. While site outages are never good, they are an indicator of large traffic spikes.

Shoppers swamped Walmart.com, rendering the site nearly inaccessible for 10 hours, the company said. Keynote Systems, which measures Web site performance, also noted a brief disruption at Amazon during a sale on deeply discounted Xbox 360 game consoles.

A Keynote spokesman said the company had not seen any similar issues among the top online retailers on Monday.

Put a fork in the myth
So was Cyber Monday just a marketing tool to rev up online holiday spending? Sort of. Industry group National Retail Federation coined the term a year ago, but an NRF representative says it never meant to say it was the busiest online shopping day of the year.

"It's not a gimmick," said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the NRF, which is based in D.C. "We never said that Cyber Monday was the busiest day of the year. The press picked that up and wrote what they wanted."

Krugman said the NRF created the term to describe a trend after a survey of online retailers discovered that holiday shopping began ramping up on that day. Retailers have used the term as an opportunity for the "ceremonial kickoff of holiday shopping," he said.

One can hardly blame executives at retail sites for steering people to virtual aisles as early as possible. A Web store is up against tighter deadlines than its offline competition.

Retail Web sites must ship holiday gifts, and that takes time. Many Web sites need orders placed by at least December 22 to guarantee delivery by Christmas day. That means that when brick-and-mortar stores are ringing up procrastinators and last-minute shoppers, the Web stores are effectively shut down. It's in the stores' interest to prod shoppers to shop early.

CONTINUED: The anecdotal evidence is in…
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12 comments

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Cyber Monday - No Deals!!!
The only way Cyber Monday will be anything close to Black Friday is if retailers actually post good deals on-line. All of the "deals" I saw were lame.
Posted by Dragunfyr (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's always been a Gimmick!
Who's the fool here? Cyber-Monday has ALWAYS been a Gimmick!
Why else would it have a catchy little name for it? (it's not really
that catchy, but what do you expect from geeks?)
If people had any sense at all, they would have seen the steady
price hikes going on since about September so that retailers could
"slash prices" for the Black Friday sales, which put "sale prices"
right back at about the regular retail price. WOW! Maybe we should
line up like cattle/sheep EVERY day?
Posted by rhett121 (73 comments )
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a PR stunt actually
This came up last year and was found to be a PR stunt by an advertising agency trying to boost its customers on-line sales if I remember correctly.
Posted by schubb (202 comments )
Link Flag
Sheer Sensibilities
How about this for an idea: a lot of people get paid on or near the end of the month, or on the first. Perhaps payday will bring a surge. I get paid tomorrow, and thus will start a 3-day binge of me throwing my hard-earned cash at Amazon and other stores during lunch breaks.
Posted by djcaseley (85 comments )
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A true perspective
As the Business Director of a growing retail/etail/wholesale company, I can honestly say that while there isn't a "Black Monday" for online retailers, it has become the "official" start of the online peak season.

The majority of online businesses are not multi-million dollar companies, which you see mentioned in nearly all of these "news" posts. Many are simply websites of larger brick and mortar retailers, and online retailing isn't a focus.

From our perspective, November itself - usually around the end of the first week of the month, normally signals our holiday peak. As mentioned from amazon representatives, our peak last year focused around December 10 - 12th. In fact, this period was so large last year, those 3 days alone represented about 15% of our entire gross retail sales for the year, which is very impressive.

The largest challenge for most online retailers is in the areas of customer service, and shipping deadlines. As mentioned, we are truly up against a more constrictive deadline for shipping products to online cusotmers. The other challenge is customer service - which is the single most important area year round, and especially at the holidays.

People who purchase online are (understandably) concerned about gift delivery, and also the fact that they are dealing with a "real" company. Those smaller retailers who offer fair pricing, and the best service, are successful. Bottom line is that communication is king - more so than pricing, which is usually only a few dollars more or less. Companies who maintain proper facilities to communicate with customers have more expenses involved - ergo pricing that is usually slightly higher.

So - while there isn't a clear cut "Black Monday" yet, it may well become so in the near future as more people shop online to avoid the lines!
Posted by bellclocks.com (3 comments )
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Cyber Monday is no more, for a reason
This article fails to note that when people first began talking of cyber Monday (the term may have been coined last season, but it's been discussed for years), the regularly cited reasoning behind it was that people return to work and shop with high-speed internet connections. Now that high-speed internet is available in the majority of homes, this cause no longer exists, or at least not to the degree that it once did.

It never had anything to do with special sales, at least in my memory.

The true internet shopping peak is indeed around December 10-12 because that is usually the time that sites start giving cut-offs for standard shipping at zero or significantly lower cost than the premium shipping required beyond those days.
Posted by llabok (1 comment )
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Cyber Monday
I checked online early Monday and throughout the day and saw no deals out there compared to Black Friday .... if you want shoppers to pay attention then give 'em something to shop for..

K. Hansen
Posted by Raskail (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cyber Monday
I checked online early Monday and throughout the day and saw no deals out there compared to Black Friday .... if you want shoppers to pay attention then give 'em something to shop for..

K. Hansen
Posted by Raskail (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The deals aren't really deals anyways - just ..
It's just all the cheap import stuff marked down drastically. It's never any of the good stuff.

I had the same sale on Wednesday 11/22 as there was on Friday 11/23.

TVs might be an exception- but no smart person is going to buy a cheap WAlmart TV discounted $200.
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
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New data on Cyber Monday
Please check out <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/061127/20061127005838.html?.v=1" target="_newWindow">http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/061127/20061127005838.html?.v=1</a>.

According to the Akamai Net Usage Index, which tracks visitors per minute to an aggregated group of more than 270 global e-commerce sites, Cyber Monday traffic was 14.6% higher than Black Friday.
Posted by mediacritic (3 comments )
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Cyber Mondays is nothing compare to Black Friday
Well lets see at best buys cyber monday offers and was the same usual stuff every day only "Free Shipping", my god !!! are they thinking we are stupids?

Beside a 300 Gig External DH on stamples on black friday was 100 dll but on best buy was 180 dll the same one.

Really, cyber monday is not big deal
Posted by Cheit (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This story is missing a major statistic
You mention that comScore reported $430 million in sales on 'Black Friday', but you don't mention what comScore reports in sales for 'Cyber Monday'.

According to internet.com, comScore reported that 'Black Friday' pulled in $434 million while 'Cyber Monday' pulled in $608 million. $608 &gt; $434.

Here's their version:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3646196" target="_newWindow">http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3646196</a>

Please clarify the matter to support your story.

On another note, 'Cyber Monday' could remove some of the darkness of 'Black Friday', i.e. busy traffic, people sitting on a line overnight to find out what they waited for is sold out, etc.
Posted by Gem Czar (2 comments )
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