It was just four years ago that the National Retail Federation coined the term "Cyber Monday" to describe the flurry of holiday shopping done online in the U.S. after the Thanksgiving weekend, much of which occurs during the workday. While "Black Friday" remains the better-known shopping event for now, many retailers hope that the increasing proliferation of high-speed internet connections will lead more people this year than ever before to making purchases via computer. Retailers could sure use the boost: Initial figures are mixed, with some suggesting that 2009 Black Friday spending was down across the board or only enjoyed a modest increase over last year. Bloggers, however, are divided on whether or not today's Cyber Monday can save the holiday shopping season.

YES, Cyber Monday To The Rescue

  • Social Media Will Hook Customers  At Direct Traffic Media, Lily Townsend voices high expectations for Cyber Monday '09, saying she expects it to be "the biggest online shopping day in the U.S. this year," and that it will 'compensate' for the "disappointing Black Friday sales." Her assertion is based in part on the increased advertising opportunities offered by the rise of social networks. As she explains: "Online advertising has been increased by major retail firms to promote their sales deals through social media such Facebook and Twitter. In the last month, Nielsen revealed that Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy received the most buzz online through social media." 
  • To Shop or to Work?  Stylelist blogger Lisa Marah notes that Cyber Monday has become a "giant boost to  a retailer's bottom line." Even though online retailers offered discounts beginning on Black Friday, she asserts that Cyber Monday has a chance of propping up holiday sales in 2009 due to precedent: "Mondays, in general, rack up higher online spending than any other day of the week. And while people may have high-speed Internet in their homes, they still take time to shop from work."
  • More Retailers Are Buying In At the Wall Street Journal's offshoot Smart Money, Kelli B. Grant learns from industry analysts that today's online retailers are better prepared to bait their customers than in years past by offering actual discounts rather than 'gimmicks':  "For 2009, retailers appear to be taking the day’s discounts more seriously, says Randy Allen, an associate dean for Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management. In part, that’s just the tough economy. But it’s also retailers finally catching up with a trend: According to Deloitte LLP, 25% of consumers plan to do the bulk of their shopping online this year. With numbers like that, retailers feel they have to discount now to get online shoppers’ attention."

NO, Don't Count On Cyber Monday
  • Job Security Trumps Online Spending  Benzinga blogger Ed Liston says that though the number of Americans expected to log online Monday to make purchases is high (some 30 million), the effects of the recession will still be acutely felt: "While cyber Monday is quite hyped among online shoppers, it is not ranked number one. Two other weekdays namely Dec. 9 and Dec. 15 -- topped the nearly $1-billion Cyber Monday sales. However, it seems less people are shopping online while working, perhaps due to job worries stemming from the recession."
  • 'Black Weekend' Is The New Cyber Monday At About.com, Retail writer Barbara Farfan argues that retailers aren't content to hold off until Monday to post their best digital deals, and thus the emphasis on Cyber Monday offers and sales is a misconception: "Instead of Cyber Monday, this year we really had 'Black Weekend,' which started for many major retailers on Thanksgiving Day and will extend through at least Monday, if not beyond. The deals that most online shoppers will see on Cyber Monday 2009 are the same deals that could have been seen running on e-commerce websites all weekend. That's good news for those who have been been filling their virtual shoppng carts already. It's not such great news for those who want to have a semi-legitimate excuse for shopping on the job on Cyber Monday." At the LA Times, Alex Pham agrees, saying that Cyber Monday is ultimately only a promotional tool: "More online stores aren't waiting until Monday to get the party going. They're throwing their own Black Friday events. Some, including Amazon.com Inc., are doing deals every day this week…It's now become more of a marketing hook that retailers want to keep alive."
  • Don't Underestimate People's Capacity for Procrastination  CNN Money writer Parija B. Kavilanz notes that retailers are pushing big discounts online this year, but tempers her report with the following sobering detail : "Despite… expected traffic numbers and heavy discounts, Cyber Monday is still seen as more of a ceremonial start to online holiday shopping. The busiest online shopping day tends to be later in December, and is the last day that gifts can be shipped to guarantee delivery by Christmas Day.