Cyber Monday is a shopping "holiday" for people who prefer to purchase holiday gifts online. On the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend, stores discount the prices of their online products to encourage online shopping.
Cyber Monday is similar to Black Friday, only without the long lines and pushy fellow shoppers. Online stores roll out deals at specific times on a first-come-first-served basis, and the best items generally sell out in seconds.
MORE: Best Cyber Monday Deals
It's a less stressful environment in which to shop, because if one site runs out of an item you want, you don't have to sprint out to your car and drive to another location hoping to find that same item elsewhere. Simply navigate to another online store and try your luck there.
The origins of Cyber Monday
The term "Cyber Monday" was coined by Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, in a press release that reported the results of a 2004 research study. The study showed that the Monday following Thanksgiving was one of the most popular online shopping days of the year.
MORE: The Best Gifts for Kids
Researchers believed this was due to the fact that many people had spent the holiday weekend window shopping, and when Monday came around and they returned to work, they promptly used their employers' high-speed Internet connections to go online to buy what they liked or weren’t able to get on Black Friday.
How big is Cyber Monday?
The practice of offering Cyber Monday deals began in November 2005 and quickly went international via online retailers in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. More than 100 million Americans shop on Cyber Monday.
Sales have more than doubled since Cyber Monday began. On Nov. 27, 2006, online sales came in at $610 million, and on Nov. 28, 2011, online sales were $1.25 billion, according to comScore, Inc. More than 600 retailers now offer discounted deals as part of their participation in Cyber Monday holiday shopping.
Where to find the best Cyber Monday deals
Shop.org created the "official" Cyber Monday website, CyberMonday.com, as a centralized hub for advertising all upcoming deals for a website or product type. For store-specific sales, the biggest participants of Cyber Monday are:
- Best Buy
- Barnes & Noble
Each company offers steep discounts on merchandise from 30 percent off books to 50 percent off electronics. The deals change each year according to the items available for sale.
When to shop on Cyber Monday
The best times to shop on Cyber Monday vary among websites, though many companies follow the same standards as Black Friday. Companies may open as early as 12:01 a.m. that day or will launch deals later in the morning. Some companies stagger their deals in hourly intervals so that new sales are available throughout the day for everyone no matter their work schedule.
While the bulk of online shoppers participate in the early-morning hours, a fair number of shoppers still find deals in the late morning and early evening. Online retailers try to give shoppers a fair chance of ordering discounted merchandise by starting sales in the morning at 6 or 7 a.m. since few people want to stay up all night to buy online.
Most stores begin placing ads on their websites as early as Nov. 1, which means you can quickly identify when a sale will occur and what items are available at a discounted price. Additional deals are unveiled the week prior to Cyber Monday, and are often the most popular deals that will sell out the fastest. The earlier you're able to prepare your online shopping cart, the better chance you stand of getting what you need for the holidays.