7 ways Cyber Monday is different from Black Friday

By Michael Bonebright/DealNews

Cyber Monday is often written off as Black Friday's less-awesome sibling, but that's unfair. In fact, until last last year, Cyber Monday had been consistently yielding more top-shelf, Editors' Choice deals than Black Friday.

So what makes Cyber Monday so special? Read on to learn a little more about everyone's second-favorite shopping holiday.

Cyber Monday Has Happier Origins

Pinning down the origin of the term "Black Friday" is not easy, but the prevailing theory is that Philadelphia police negatively coined the term in the 1950s. Apparently, hordes of people would descend upon the city on the Friday after Turkey Day ahead of the annual Army/Navy football game on Saturday. Stores would take advantage of all the extra business by promoting big sales, and cops were stuck with long, busy shifts.

Black Friday didn't come into its more widespread, awesome reputation until the 1980s. But Cyber Monday's origins are much more recent; the term was coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005 to describe the Monday after Thanksgiving, when people continued to shop online after returning to work. And nothing makes anyone happier than goofing off at work!

And There Are Fewer Ads

Before you've even thought about where to find the best deal on a turkey, you're no doubt aware of the upcoming Black Friday sales. This is because retailers (and intrepid deal sites) have been posting Black Friday ads far in advance, sometimes as early as the beginning of October. However, we see comparatively fewer Cyber Monday ads — possibly because retailers know that shoppers will check out those sales anyway.

In-Store Doorbusters Go Bye-Bye

Along with fewer ads comes a dearth of doorbusters. Cyber Monday is an online shopping holiday; there's no reason to go knocking down the doors of your local Best Buy.

Of course, "doorbusters" in general are dying out. In-store shoppers have long been frustrated by the concept of low-stock items that sell out in seconds, and retailers are listening. Nowadays, it's not uncommon to find so-called doorbusters listed online during Black Friday.

Most Sales Are Over in Less Than 24 Hours

Perhaps one of Cyber Monday's most defining characteristics is the ephemerality of its deals — especially compared with Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The majority of Cyber Monday deals are over by the end of the day. Only about a third of Black Friday deals, and a quarter of Thanksgiving deals, end that quickly.

Similarly, Cyber Monday has many more short-lived offers, like Amazon's lightning deals. So it's best to stay glued to your screen — whether it's a laptop, phone, or tablet — as the deals will be fast and furious.

Cyber Monday Has the Most Online Sales

We're not talking about coupons here; by "sales," we actually mean goods sold. Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year, and last year it hit a record $3.45 billion in sales. That's up more than 12% from the year before. Unsurprisingly, part of what pushed it over the brink was mobile shopping. Mobile shopping accounted for 47% of visits to retail websites and 31% of sales.

Different Stores Will Shine

While Black Friday will be dominated by deals from the usual suspects — Best Buy, Kohl's, Target, etc. — Cyber Monday will see some less likely players shine. In the past, we've seen stores like Crocs and Levi's offer truly awesome deals, so don't be surprised if you come across unexpected finds.

Fashionistas Love Cyber Monday

The Black Friday season is like the Olympics, with different shopping events on each shopping holiday. Whereas Thanksgiving and Black Friday are better for electronics, Cyber Monday shines in soft goods. Clothes and shoes are especially great buys, with retailers busting out Black Friday-beating coupons in many cases. Beauty products are another oft-overlooked, but awesome, Cyber Monday category.

Should you not be the sartorial sort, you can always snag a laptop, or shop for new kitchen gear. Better yet, book a killer hotel deal on Cyber Monday — you've probably had enough of those visiting relatives at this point.

So if you've been ignoring Cyber Monday, it's time to give this hardworking holiday another shot. With billions of dollars under its belt, this shopping extravaganza is here to stay!