Cyber Monday is sooo 2005.
It's only three days away, but already some people are all ho-hum about it this year.
there a Cyber Monday? No. Is there a Cyber Three Weeks? Yes," says
Richard Feinberg, professor of consumer behavior and retail management
at Purdue University in Indiana.
Or call it the Cyber Five - that
is, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of combined sales -
online and in stores, which together kick off the annual year-end
shopping frenzy and spell either gloom or glory for retailers' books in
But Monday itself? True, it's billed as the "official" start
of the online holiday shopping season. And as the marketing gurus tell
it, come Monday, many Americans will roll into their offices, fire up
their computers, open their e-mails and proceed to shop. About $2
billion worth of shopping just on that day, about 3% of the projected
two-month holiday online sales haul.
But after a mere seven years,
the "tradition," if you can call it that, of Cyber Monday might be
waning in importance. Not exactly over or kaput, but definitely evolving
in the face of a rapidly changing retail environment; increasingly
savvy, deal-driven consumers with broadband, high-speed Internet access
and a slew of shopping-friendly mobile devices in their pockets; and
the rise of mighty social media networks.
These days, the argument
goes, online shoppers don't need Cyber Monday anymore. Egged on by a
gusher of e-mail deals that have been flooding their inboxes, consumers
started buying days, even weeks ago, and will shop all the way up to
Christmas, when some of the best deals will be available, albeit in more
"Cyber Monday is passé," says Fiona Dias,
chief strategy officer of ShopRunner.com, a shopping service that offers
two-day shipping promises for online retail sites. "It's passé because
if (a retailer) plans to sell 1,000 widgets over a five-day period at
20% off, and they've sold out by Saturday, then you don't need to sell
any more at 20% off by Monday."
The moral for the consumer: "If
you're waiting until Monday to get a deal, it might not be the wisest
strategy because retailers have moved on. Go look on Wednesday."
Cohen, lead retail analyst for the marketing analysis firm NPD Group,
says that for some years, Cyber Monday was "more hype than reality"
anyway. "I don't think it's over, but I do think its role is
diminished," he says.
In fact, says Feinberg, the sharpest
year-over-year spike in online Cyber Monday holiday sales was in 2010.
"We saw a gigantic increase in Internet ordering on that Monday after
Thanksgiving, but since then, only smaller increases," he says.
retailers are also undermining Cyber Monday, Cohen says, by jumping the
gun on Black Friday. Many retailers opened their doors - and their
deals - on Thanksgiving evening, or even as early as Wednesday.
means the spending power that Cyber Monday was going to have is
dissipated, and the way online retailers will be competing with those
new hours will create a dilution of Monday as well," Cohen says. "Cyber
Monday is not gone completely, but it's certainly on the way to having
significant challenges to maintain the level of intensity of recent
Well! Those are fightin' words to some.
Cyber Monday is obsolete just sounds foolish," says Sucharita Mulpuru, a
retail analyst at Forrester, a technology research firm. Forrester
predicts that November and December will draw $68.4 billion in online
revenue, a 15% increase over 2011. Cyber Monday is crucial to that, she
says, and bigger than ever.
"It is the biggest shopping day of the year for Web retailers - it is huge."
the majority of all sales still remain offline. And yes, consumers can
shop online any day. But Mulpuru says Cyber Monday is the day that
online merchants launch their richest deals and discounts; consumers
have been well trained in the past seven years to expect that, so they
go looking for them. When? Monday at work.
"The Web in general is
taking share from the rest of the retail world, and every day that is
growing," she says. "For the near future, at least three to five years,
(Cyber Monday sales) will absolutely at least pace the growth of
e-commerce and, because the deals can be so compelling, even outpace."
Monday was first conceived by the National Retail Federation's digital
arm, Shop.org, in 2005. At the time, digital retailing was much less
common, and only a fraction of American households had broadband,
high-speed Internet access - let alone smartphones and tablets. Instead,
they had computers at work.
"We saw it as a wonderful way to help
people adapt to online shopping at a time when it was still new and
intimidating, to show that it's not so scary and you can get a great
deal," says Vicki Cantrell, executive director of Shop.org.
of all households with computers, up to 90% have broadband high-speed
access, according to a study by Leichtman Research Group. Still,
Cantrell says there's another reason why Cyber Monday remains valid:
free shipping, the No. 1 consumer concern about online shopping, she
"Cyber Monday is the big day for the start of offers for
unconditional free shipping. It was 12% of all online transactions last
year, and we're predicting it will go to 44% this year."
Deals, 365 days a year
Ehrlich, co-founder and COO of Copious.com, a relatively new San
Francisco-based social marketplace organized around members' personal
interests, says Cyber Monday still has meaning, but it's been "blunted"
by the emergence of a deal-driven culture that it helped encourage.
get deals every single day through your Facebook and Twitter streams,
so the peak impact of Cyber Monday is not as great as five years ago,
when so much was concentrated on this day and Black Friday," Ehrlich
says. "Now it extends for 365 days a year."
The marketplace is "so
noisy" with the onslaught of deal messages that consumers can't tell
one retailer from another, or when a particular deal is valid, he says.
Buy, for instance, is getting widespread media coverage for its
super-low prices on flat-screen TVs and laptops, but it's not clear to
consumers whether they're supposed to stand in line at the door to the
store on Friday morning or can sleep in and get the same deal later
Even now, the vast majority of online transactions happen
during the week, not on the weekends or holidays, says Ehrlich. When
consumers return to work after the Thanksgiving holidays, their work
inboxes are overflowing. The natural inclination, if they haven't
already gone to the mall, is to shop then and there.
(is best viewed) as a line of demarcation for the start of the 'great
race' of the holiday shopping season," Ehrlich says. "In a world where
everything is completely networked and connected, with an increased
number of mobile devices in pockets, Cyber Monday becomes truly the
Social media has its say
look for a significant uptick in ordering by mobile devices such as
smartphones and tablets, says Feinberg. "Let's call it Cyberphone
Monday," he jokes.
And with social media - enabled by mobile
devices - being all the rage, what role do Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter
and the rest now play in our shopping culture? This, too, is debated.
"A snore," says Dias. "Not that critical," says Mulpuru.
clear from social media that most users, even if they're not actually
shopping on Monday, are still using Cyber Monday as a catchall hook to
hang all sorts of messages. On Twitter, innumerable users are including
the hashtag #CyberMonday to talk about it, promote it and kvetch. Take a
look at Pinterest's Cyber Monday boards, and see an eye-popping
smorgasbord of CM-related deals, promotions, and user pins, referrals
"Never before have retailers and merchants
of all shapes and sizes been able to actively engage with their user
base, which allows for targeted messages and offers to niche audiences,"
says Ehrlich. "And it's free. The democratization of messaging and
conversation is a huge boon to merchants."
Cohen predicts social
media will become an increasingly important precursor to the purchase
process. "It will be the communication vehicle to not only reach
customers, but to tell gifters what the giftee wants, what deals are
available and 'this is what I would love you to buy me,'" he says.
But there's no firm data to suggest how social media influences shopping, Feinberg says.
in the infancy of social media and its influence," he says. "It is a
blip right now, but it's going to be very significant in the future."
there is data that shows digital shopping is growing by leaps compared
with in-store shopping, Feinberg says. In-store retail sales this
holiday season will probably go up about 5%, he says, but digital
retailing will likely jump 15%-20%.
"We expect Internet to grow
double digits," he says. "It's like a snowball: More people ordered last
year, they'll order again. People are growing more confident and
comfortable in Internet spending. They will order again."
digital sales remain only a fraction of overall holiday sales - just 8%
last year, Feinberg says, despite all the growth.
"It might be 9%
or 10% this year," he says. "Will it ever be 20%? I don't know. But
when I talk to retailers, I tell them to consider the Internet to be
your biggest store in your chain, and 10% is more than the largest store
for any big retailer. It's not the biggest thing, but they have to pay
attention to it."