Cyber Monday Is a Fake Holiday

Why the new Black Friday is just a myth.

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I know, as a journalist, I'm supposed to write about how today is Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, and how it's the latest rival to Black Friday, and about all the amazing deals that are coming your way. While it's true that there are deals out there today, let's put the charade aside: Cyber Monday is a made-up marketing term that has been promulgated by journalists looking for an easy way to write about online retail. Yes, the subject of the growth of online retail versus the decline of traditional retail is an interesting one and should be tackled, but let's not pretend that there is some online shopping day equivalent to Black Friday.

Here is the best breakdown of everything you need to know about Cyber Monday—as a marketing term, not an actual event. The key fact is that since 2005 (the year "Cyber Monday" was first widely promulgated), the first Monday after Thanksgiving has never been the biggest online shopping day. Instead, consumers seem to buy more in roughly mid-December. Last year, the Monday after Thanksgiving was only the third-biggest online shopping day.

It's interesting to note that there was a time when Cyber Monday might have made sense. About 10 years ago, many people did not have Internet connections at home. So you had an extra-long Thanksgiving weekend of waiting before you could get to the office on Monday and start placing orders. But obviously, today home Internet usage is way up, and there is no reason why people wouldn't space their Internet shopping throughout the weekend after Thanksgiving, and not wait until Monday.

People might say that these facts don't matter. What matters is how people perceive Cyber Monday, and the perception alone gives it meaning for consumers. After all, according to Shop.org, over 83 percent of major online retailers offered some kind of promotion on Cyber Monday. That's an impressive number for sure, but couldn't we say the same thing about Cyber Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc.? Many big stores have been offering deals since the weekend started, and continuing throughout this week (click here for more details).