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Celebrating "Cyber Monday"

If you turned on the television, checked a news Web site or read a newspaper in the past few days, you would have been introduced to a new term in the world of holiday marketing hype – "Black Friday" has begotten "Cyber Monday."

On last night's "Evening News," correspondent Trish Regan noted in a piece about holiday shopping that Cyber Monday "could be one of the busiest days for Web retailers ever recorded." "Today is expected to be one of the busiest days of the year for shopping online," ABC's "World News Tonight" anchor Elizabeth Vargas said last night as she introduced Dan Harris' piece on secure online shopping. "Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is quickly becoming one of the biggest online shopping days of the year," wrote CNNMoney.com. USA Today wrote on Sunday that "The post-holiday Monday has become a big event for online retailers, who've nicknamed it 'Cyber Monday.' Some 43% plan promotions today to fuel the trend."

And if you were wondering where exactly the fuel for this trend came from, Robert Hof at Businessweek Online has an answer for you:

So what's up with this Cyber Monday idea? A little bit of reality and a whole lot of savvy marketing. It turns out that Shop.org, an association for retailers that sell online, dreamed up the term just days before putting out a Nov. 21 press release touting Cyber Monday as "one of the biggest online shopping days of the year."

The idea was born when a few people at the organization were brainstorming about how to promote online shopping, says Shop.org Executive Director Scott Silverman, who answered his phone, "Happy Cyber Monday." They quickly discarded suggestions such as Black Monday (too much like Black Friday), Blue Monday (not very cheery), and Green Monday (too environmentalist), and settled on Cyber Monday. "It's not the biggest day," Silverman concedes. "But it was an opportunity to create some consumer excitement."

Indeed, Hof argues that historically, online retail sales don't drastically pick up on the Monday following Thanksgiving:
Contrary to what the recent blitz of media coverage implies, Cyber Monday isn't nearly the biggest online shopping or spending day of the year. It ranks only as the 12th-biggest day historically, according to market researcher ComScore Networks. It's not even the first big day of the season.

For most online retailers, the bigger spending day of the season to date was way back on Nov. 22, three days before Black Friday. What's more, most e-tailers say the season's top spending day comes much later, between around Dec. 5 and Dec. 15.

NBC's "Nightly News" last night offered a similar bit of information from ComScore Networks Chairman Gian Fulgoni:
ANNE THOMPSON: Today is touted as "Cyber Monday." Online retailer's answer to Black Friday. It's gotten buzz but it's far from biggest sales day of the year.

GIAN FULGONI, COMSCORE NETWORKS CHAIRMAN: If you compare it to the other days in the holiday season, it only ranks about 12th or 13th. The heaviest day is going to occur somewhere around the middle of December.

Whether Cyber Monday is traditionally notable or not, Hof suggests that it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Writing that one online jewelry site's traffic yesterday had jumped 82% from the previous Monday and 92% from last year, which the chief executive attributed in part "to a 'Cyber Monday Blowout' sale," Hof notes that the gimmick, "may be starting to fulfill its own marketing hype -- at least for some."

USA Today agrees, following up on it's earlier piece by declaring that "Cyber Monday looks like it lived up to its hype … Online traffic Monday afternoon tracked more than 30% higher than an average Monday, based on results from sites monitored by Akamai Technologies."

Whether media coverage of Cyber Monday actually contributed to an uptick in traffic and sales for online shopping sites is obviously unclear. But it's probably safe to say that Cyber Monday was an "opportunity to create some consumer excitement" that paid off.