While brick-and-mortar stores have Black Friday to kick off the holiday spending spree, online the world belongs to Cyber Monday. This year, record numbers of retailers are promoting special deals for the shopping day.
"Almost any retailer with a website is really getting into the Cyber Monday craziness and chaos," said Ellen Davis, vice president of the National Retail Federation. A survey conducted by the nonprofit found that nearly 90 percent of retailers have some sort of Cyber Monday promotion, up from 73 percent last year.
"What we are seeing for Cyber Monday specifically: a lot of free shipping deals, one-day sales, percentages off the entire site, which is great if you're a holiday shopper looking to save," Davis said.
Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, coined the phrase "Cyber Monday" to illustrate the trend of people shopping online the Monday after Thanksgiving, when shoppers coming back from holiday travels or unsuccessful Black Friday trips started to troll websites for seasonal bargains. They did it from the comfort of their work computers, where Internet connections were faster and more secure, and they could shop away from nosy children or the prying eyes of spouses. Retailers caught on, and so Cyber Monday was born.
Even non-retailers, such as e-commerce coupon company Groupon, are getting in on the Cyber Monday action. Julie Mossler, of Groupon, said the company is ideal for online shoppers.
"Groupon serves more than 130 markets in North America, so you can take care of all your holiday shopping for friends around the country without leaving your desk," said Mossler. Groupon's deals are mostly for local merchants. Instead of traditional gifts that go in wrapped boxes, Mossler said the company is seeing more and more shoppers buy experiences for friends and family around the country.
"Is someone going to remember you for the sweater you got them this year or is someone going to remember you for their first sky-diving deal or first wine tasting?" Mossler said.
For online retailer Overstock.com, sales on Cyber Monday are 15 percent to 20 percent bigger than Black Friday. The company's CEO, Patrick Byrne, said he believes it takes until Monday for shoppers to remember why they hate going to the mall on Black Friday, standing in line, and elbowing their way to products.
"I think it's a much better experience online, you find it quicker, you become an expert quicker ... and you get a better deal," said Byrne. For the best deals on his site, Byrne reccommends signing up for the company's social media networks, such as its Facebook page. Customers who follow Overstock on Facebook will gain access to Cyber Monday deals before the general public.
Cyber Monday is still in its infancy but is slated for huge growth. Market research firm comScore reported Cyber Monday sales of $887 million last year, an increase of 5 percent over 2008. The company expects sales to grow even higher this year.
"We do anticipate it to surpass $900 million and could potentially approach $1 billion," said Andrew Lipsman, of comScore.
Those sales are driven in part by online shoppers spending more than those who shop in-store only. According to Chris Donnelly, of consulting firm Accenture, consumers who shop through multiple channels, such as online, on a mobile phone and in-store, are much more valuable to retailers.