Over the last several weeks, emails from various retailers have flooded my personal inbox, often multiple from one retailer in a given day. “Sale!”, “Special Gift with Purchase!”, “Additional Markdown!” This inundation comes as no surprise since October-December historically proves busiest for the retail industry. Especially given the nation’s current economic conditions, I understand a retailer’s sense of urgency to generate sales. Not yet ready to accept the fact the holidays (and thus, spending season, a.k.a., personal budget crisis!) quickly approach, in most cases I ignore the retailer’s message and hit “delete.” However, just prior to Thanksgiving, a few began to catch my eye. “Cyber Monday” appeared in subject lines and headlines. Every retailer email seems to reference this term, as if it’s a proper noun.
I consider myself to be a fairly savvy shopper. One of three daughters, our mother taught us the skills of professional shopping (just ask our father). When someone says, “Black Friday,” we know what they’re talking about. We’re not part of the crowd fighting for Tickle-Me-Elmo at 4am, but we get out there the Friday after Thanksgiving armed and ready; after all, we couldn’t bear to miss out on a possible bargain! But “Cyber Monday?” Is it an elusive virtual store, existing for one day only, offering exclusive deals to the select few who find it? What is this and why haven’t I heard about it?
Feeling very much out of the loop, I decided to save these new emails for further research later (well, maybe for some shopping too), after my family finished the weekend gorging on turkey and ham. By work this morning I’d received many more emails also referencing “Cyber Monday.” Intrigued, I decided it was time to get down to the bottom of it.
Wikipedia defines Cyber Monday as, “the Monday immediately following Black Friday, the ceremonial kick-off of the holiday online shopping season in the United States between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.” The thinking is shoppers who’ve spent all weekend in physical stores return to work on Monday and flock to the Internet to continue their shopping. Ok now it’s making sense. Wikipedia goes on to attribute the creation of Cyber Monday to Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation. Research from 2004 data showed 77% of online retailers saw a “significant increase in sales” the Monday after Thanksgiving. However, Shop.org surveyed its members in 2005 and the results showed December 12th (two weeks after Cyber Monday) as the busiest online shopping day. So why does Cyber Monday fall this early in the holiday shopping season if the busiest day is not until later?
Retailers use promotion, one of the four “P’s” in the Marketing Mix (others are Product, Price and Place), to keep a product in the mind of the consumer, thus driving demand and leading to increased sales. Promotional offers give the consumer a special deal, whether a true price break or some form of added value, and give the retailer another excuse to get in front of the consumer. Hence, the email inundation. Not only does Cyber Monday provide retailers a theme upon which to base these promotional offers, but the name itself creates a certain sense of urgency, enticing consumers to act now. “For One Day Only!”, “You Can’t Afford to Wait!”, “Don’t Let This Offer Pass You By!”, etc., which then leads to “Offer Extended!”, “Time Is Running Out!”, etc.
This year the retailers come across as particularly desperate; some offers I’ve seen seem off the wall or worse, don’t even make sense. Barnes & Noble offering a free picture frame with purchase? Dicks Sporting Goods offering specials during late night shopping hours? I’ve come to expect JCrew’s daily email touting their latest offer. Many of these deals we wouldn’t usually see until after the holidays. A new homeowner, I think I decorated my house for nearly half the price of what I would have spent last year (although that thought scares me), since most holiday decorations are already marked down to 50% off. Even high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus are jumping in; one recent NM email offered free gift wrapping and free shipping at any price. I’m not an NM shopper (reference aforementioned personal budget crisis), but you can rest assured their free shipping offer meant a lot to some people. To top it off, the shipping offer is limitless! In other words, NM is willing to accept potentially high shipping costs just so you’ll buy…anything! Other than the fact that nobody has any money, I guess it’s a “buyer’s market?”
What’s your Cyber Monday story?