(CNN) — Five years ago, Shop.org published a press release:
“While traditional retailers will be monitoring store traffic and sales on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), online retailers have set their sights on something different: Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is quickly becoming one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.”
Ta-dah! The term “Cyber Monday” was born.
The only problem: It’s mostly a marketing gimmick, according to consumer electronics experts and an online metrics tracker.
Cyber Monday has never been the biggest day of the year for online retail sales, said Andrew Lipsman, director of industry analysis at comScore, a company that monitors internet traffic.
Typically, a Monday in December takes that title, and Lipsman predicted the biggest online retail day of 2010 will be on December 13.
In 2009, Cyber Monday was the second-biggest e-commerce day of the year, but Lipsman said that was an outlier case, influenced by the recession. Usually, Cyber Monday is the seventh to ninth biggest day for e-commerce. “This year I think consumers are starting to open up their wallets a bit more, and I would expect that Cyber Monday starts to move down the list” of the biggest online retail days of the year, he said.
But spending isn’t the only way to define a big shopping day.
What if Cyber Monday, which is expected to see an increase in online spending this year, earned its name because of hot deals?
Also, not the case, according to independent experts.
Unlike Black Friday, which has a concentration of deals in brick-and-mortar stores, online sales tend not to fall on a certain day, said Mike Gikas, an editor for electronics and technology at Consumer Reports, the nonprofit group. The best deals on TVs, for instance, likely won’t come until mid-December, he said.
Dan de Grandpre, editor-in-chief at DealNews, said products listed on sale on the Monday after Thanksgiving tend to be “the dregs” that didn’t sell on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Some high-end retailers do hold Cyber Monday sales, he said, but some already started on Friday or Sunday and others won’t begin until the second or third week in December.
Shop.org, which coined the term “Cyber Monday” and operates a retail website called CyberMonday.com, says nine in 10 online retailers are offering Cyber Monday deals this year. But read the fine print and that statistic loses some of its shine. That data is based on a survey of 51 online retailers, and the majority of those said to be offering Cyber Monday deals aren’t targeting the Monday after Thanksgiving specifically. Only 21 of the 51 retailers surveyed on behalf of Shop.org are offering one-day Cyber Monday sales.
Ellen Davis, vice president of the National Retail Federation, which owns CyberMonday.com (and Shop.org), said the “Cyber Monday” term originated organically as retailers noticed that consumers turned to the internet to shop on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
“The trend was actually developed by shoppers and started in ’02, ’03,” she said, adding that the federation just put a name to the concept.
The number of people shopping online on the Monday after Thanksgiving has grown steadily since 2005, when an estimated 59 million said they would shop online on that day, to 2009, when that number jumped to 96 million, Davis said.
Furthermore, she said, several online retailers are offering deals that are specific to Cyber Monday. Among those with deals, she said, are eBags.com, Ice.com, Drugstore.com, Soap.com, Diapers.com, LuckyBrand.com and Fashionbug.com.
But all of those sites were offering deals on Friday, too, meaning they weren’t holding out for Cyber Monday promotions. Ice.com listed a “Black Friday Blowout Sale.” Drugstore.com advertised “cyber week savings,” instead of highlighting Monday.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to be learned from Cyber Monday is that Mondays — after Thanksgiving or not — are usually big days for e-commerce.
That’s because people like to shop at work, said Lipsman of comScore.
People used to think that Cyber Monday was big because workers were using high-speed office internet connections to do their online shopping, he said. Now that two-thirds of Americans have broadband connections at home, according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, that theory has been pretty much debunked.
But still, for whatever reason, about half of all online purchases happen from an office internet connection, Lipsman said.