Black Friday receives a great deal of press as the busiest shopping day of the year, but as consumers are increasingly turning to online retail stores to fill their holiday wish lists, Cyber Monday is rapidly becoming a significant presence in retail sales. Online sales for Cyber Monday in 2011 broke the $1 billion dollar record for the second year in a row, showing a 22% increase in sales from the time of its inception.
Cyber Monday was originally coined in 2005 by Shop.org, the digital division of The National Retail Federation, which is the world’s largest association of retail traders. The association includes many different kinds of retailers, from department stores to chain restaurants and grocers that all offer a variety of savings from discounts to coupons through the Shop.org portal.
Although Cyber Monday was originally designed as a marketing attempt to encourage online shopping, research conducted by Shop.org showed that online sales increased significantly during the Monday after Thanksgiving, perhaps due to the “high” that Americans were still feeling at work after a busy Thanksgiving weekend of visiting stores in person. In fact, more than half of all online purchases made on Cyber Monday were from work computers in 2009, leading to several crackdowns by employers wishing to curb employee personal use of office computers.
Cyber Monday represented a notable boost for electronics retailers, as the most popular products sold online in 2011 were electronic devices. The hottest products of this season so far have been the Xbox 360 Kinect, the iPad, Casio watches, the iPhone 4, and the Droid brand smartphones from Motorola, though shoppers also hunted for deals on HDTVs and the new Kindle Fire. Cyber Monday was also a great day for PC and gaming software, as online stores such as Amazon.com offered major price cuts to popular gaming titles such as Batman: Arkham City for the Playstation 3, and with direct downloads, shoppers could access their purchases within hours.
Now that Cyber Monday has increasingly turned a profit over the past five years, with 2011 making the most significant leap in sales, its future remains certain. Since predictions for 2012 expect an even larger increase in online sales, ecommerce merchants need to prepare themselves in order to take advantage of this important shopping day.
One of the major troubles with online shopping is that shipping and returns are more of a hassle than with brick and mortar establishments, which is why online retailers are beginning to outsource their order fulfillment departments to companies that specialize in this procedure, in order to ensure that orders are processed quickly and that returns remain flexible.
Ecommerce merchants are also relying more heavily on shopping cart software suites and third party store hosting services that will help them manage orders, understand customer needs by analyzing their purchasing history, and maintain website functionality. In this way, online retailers can market to their customers in a more personalized manner, which is essential when dealing with the clutter of the Internet. Using these business practices will help growing online retailers to become a noticeable player for future Cyber Mondays.
Brandi Tolleson is a prolific freelance writer residing in the Los Angeles area.