Opinion

The Great Debate

It’s time to retire Cyber Monday

By Matt Kelley
November 27, 2013

It’s that time of year again. Time for Americans to gather, eat turkey with all the fixings, and give thanks for what they’ve got. It’s also time for our old friend Cyber Monday — the Monday following Black Friday — one of the biggest shopping days of the year. But frankly, it’s a holiday we can do without.

I have nothing against online shopping. I’d much rather sip a cappuccino and shop in the comfort of my own home than endure long lines and fight with other harried customers in the post-Thanksgiving rush. But this holiday no longer reflects the realities of digital shopping in 2013.

First mentioned in an announcement by Shop.org on November 28, 2005, Cyber Monday was dreamed up by marketers to address a legitimate consumer need. Few U.S. consumers had high-speed Internet access at home, and it was reasoned that a dedicated day to encourage people to shop online when they returned to work the following Monday would give a boost to holiday sales.

That turned out to be true. But with broadband now reaching almost 80 percent of U.S. homes, as well as the explosion of mobile commerce, Cyber Monday today is more of a learned Pavlovian response than a true need.

There’s no denying that the holiday has been a huge shopping success. It set records for one-day online shopping for the past three years in a row. In 2012, for example, Cyber Monday spending totaled $1.465 billion, according to comScore, making it the single largest online spending day in history. Growth was especially robust in categories such as digital content and subscriptions, consumer electronics and computer hardware — the latter two primarily driven by sales of smartphones and tablets.

Clearly, online retailers also still take advantage of the hype around the holiday to offer some very attractive deals to consumers. Amazon, for example, last year slashed prices of its Kindle Fire tablet by roughly 20 percent, resulting in its most successful Cyber Monday ever, according to IBM, which each year analyzes transactions from 500 U.S. retailers.

Yet things may be changing. Although Cyber Monday growth in 2011 was 22 percent more than the previous year, last year it fell to 17 percent, according to comScore. In part to combat this slowed growth, online retailers have begun offering deeply discounted deals to consumers long before Cyber Monday.

Deal-scouting site Bradsdeals.com, for example, has set up a dedicated Cyber Monday website to highlight attractive year-end offerings, under the motto “Cyber Monday, Every Monday.” Another deal site, Fatwallet.com, is touting both Cyber Monday and Black Friday deals from companies such as Kmart, Dell, Priceline and online security company McAfee. And Walmart, Best Buy, and Target for the past few years have established Cyber Monday pages months in advance that increase consumer anticipation, while also heavily promoting the stores’ current online deals.

Even more importantly for future behavior, mobile is playing an increasingly important role in holiday shopping. Nearly 13 percent of U.S. e-commerce sales this year are expected to be made on a mobile device, a 50 percent increase from 2012, according to Internet Retailer’s Mobile 500 report, and that number can only keep growing. Consumers can be reached with deals anytime, anywhere.

These always-connected consumers are ready and eager for holiday deals regardless of the date, time or location. Retailers that offer attractive deals and make it as easy as possible for people to buy no matter where they are — whether on mobile, tablet, desktop, speaking to a call center or in-store — are going to be the winners, regardless of the date on the calendar. With all these opportunities, who needs Cyber Monday, other than companies who have not understood the changing needs of today’s always-on consumer?

PHOTO: A UPS delivery man unloads boxes from a truck in New York November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Comments
9 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The assumptions that individuals with slow connections (on over subscribed networks) needed a Cyber Monday to get them shopping after a stressful day at work after the long workfree weekend make no sense and was NOT the reason the day was created. As an owner of an ISP during that time (and to this day) I find the authors opinion goofy for two reasons.

First: the reason for Cyber Monday was to coax folks to even try it. Many users were still scared on on-line transactions when the campaign kicked off. Indeed the initial results were reasonably paltry. Those of us on the tech side were sitting back and just smiling as we knew it would not be long before the thing took off, while the pundits and brick and mortar operations patted themselves on the back and said essentially, ‘see!’

Cyber Monday did work, over then next few years to create a real sense of safety and normalcy to something that seemed so outlandish to many at first.

Second: The reason to remove it is no more meaningful than a call to remove Black Friday. Both are just Pavlovian triggers. Yes we are always on-live, just as we are always walking, to and from, going in and out, of stores, including Malls. But we aren’t always thinking about Christmas shopping.

Posted by MikeLieberman | Report as abusive
 

You’re right! It was and is successful but we should get rid of it because we don’t need the proven great discounts! Wait…

Posted by goat-on-a-stick | Report as abusive
 

Interesting take Matt, and I agree the softness seen last year was a little deflating. But as Cyber Monday has become part of Americana, I wonder if its removal would play out in a similar fashion to Ron Johnsons’ JCPenny’s permanent markdown fiasco.

Posted by BrianBarron | Report as abusive
 

I think put it down would be more apt – right along with “Black Friday” which is a term claimed to have been in common lexicography since time immortal but which was only hyped in the latter part of this 21st century. I’m not buying either as any kind of event I wish to be a part of.

Posted by DLNY | Report as abusive
 

Cyber Monday cuts into black friday sales. Therefore I like it better. Black friday is the most embarrassing, piggish holiday we have.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive
 

each year-end, the purported ‘rush’ to consume fails to materialize in the US, doesn’t it? and each year-end the summary report is that retailers were ‘disappointed’ by their failure to sell as much as they had hoped…

call each day whatever you like. nominalism does not a healthy economy make.

Posted by wilhelm | Report as abusive
 

Would much rather spend time checking out specials by internet than fighting the bargain-hunters in the stores. Will be spending some time Monday doing just that. Also – making sure that what I buy is made in the USA, and that really takes time.

Plus, the after-Christmas sales are so good that I may just get gift certificates and then let the recipients spend on what they want or need.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

I”m sure that some feel it would be very unAmerican to not celebrate a holiday dedicated to the mighty power that made America great – All Hail Consumerism!

Posted by euro-yank | Report as abusive
 

Wrong, wrong, WRONG! 17% growth in a year is great for any company / industry, but Matt uses it as a harbinger of doom simply because it didn’t match the 22% growth of the preceding year. And since it seems like Black Friday sales are actually LOWER this year than last, is it time to retire that as well? I’m sure when the dust settles after this 2013, reality will show that Cyber Monday is, in fact, still a “thing.”

P.S. Hey Reuters, if you’re hiring, I can find the time to make-up opinion pieces completely divorced from reality too!

Posted by RexMax46 | Report as abusive
 

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