'Cyber Monday' Joins Retail Calendar

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The National Retail Federation's Shop.org online division has two words for that surge in e-commerce activity on the Monday after Thanksgiving: Cyber Monday.

Shop.org and its member retailers hope Cyber Monday will gain the same stature with consumers that Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving -- has in store-based retail.

"We'd like to position it as the official kickoff to the online holiday season, accompanied by special promotions and offers," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, Washington.

Shop.org's christening comes soon after a study from interactive technology provider Atlas stamped Monday's importance for holiday e-commerce. That study expected Mondays to remain the top online shopping day for the holidays for the third straight year. Dec. 12 is likely to generate the most online sales this holiday season, Atlas said in its survey of 96 retailers.

Collaborative research from Shop.org bolstered the notion of Cyber Monday. The Shop.org/BizRate Research 2005 eHoliday Mood Study said 77 percent of the responding online retailers experienced a jump in e-commerce transactions last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving. This trend persuaded key retailers to run enticing promotions this year (see chart).

Thanksgiving Day typically has been off-limits for marketing overtures. But the following day is an established occasion for families to shop together for discounted items in stores nationwide. Black Friday, as the day is called, is when retailers are expected to go into the black, or show some profit.

The rhythm online differs, however.

Those Thanksgiving weekend consumers who haven't finished shopping in stores or have browsed online or offline then flock to faster Internet connections in offices on the following Monday. Transactions also are concluded at home after putting the children to bed on Monday night.

Cyber Monday shoppers can expect a raft of deal sweeteners this holiday season. The mood study found 43 percent of the online retailers plan to offer free shipping, gifts with purchase or percentage-off deals.

The same survey reported that 89 percent of retailers selling jewelry and luxury products online last year saw a substantial increase in Cyber Monday sales. Close behind were categories like consumer electronics, food and beverages, and furniture and home décor. Overall, 77 percent of the respondents last year registered a significant increase in Cyber Monday sales.

Meanwhile, 36 percent of the online retailers plan to offer special promotions and sales on Thanksgiving Day itself. The closure of most retail stores that day after noon will help. And they also bank on idle time being put to use once the parades are done and leftovers packed.

How this first official Cyber Monday and the increased Thanksgiving Day promotions work out will be gauged from results reported by retailers in the coming weeks. Retailers who wish to participate in the holiday mood study should visit the site at http://www.shop.org/eholiday05.

E-commerce has been the one bright spot for overall retail sales in the past several years. Fluctuations in consumer confidence this year are not expected to impede e-commerce's upward trajectory as it benefits from incremental and channel-cannibalized sales.

"I think there's reason to be more optimistic than we were six months ago when gasoline prices were very high," Silverman said. "I also think that we're now entering the second decade of e-commerce, and it's a competitive marketplace and retailers are reacting with aggressive promotions to get consumers excited about shopping online."

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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