Does Cyber Monday matter anymore?


(Moneywatch) The increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets may be decreasing the significance of Cyber Monday for online sales. A growing number of people aren't waiting until the holiday weekend is over to go shopping online and are getting it done on Thanksgiving and Black Friday instead.

The phrase "Cyber Monday" was coined five years ago in the belief that the day when people go back to work -- and get back to their computers -- after the holiday weekend was the heaviest online shopping day of the year. Although this has never been true -- the days with the most online sales are the ones just before the deadline for packages to arrive by Christmas -- Cyber Monday has come to be viewed as an indicator of how well the online holiday shopping season would go.

However, this year Cyber Monday may be even less significant because of double digit increases in online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. According to IBM Benchmark, Thanksgiving saw a 17.4 percent increase in sales over 2011 and Black Friday's were up by 20.7 percent.

Black Friday saw $1.04 billion in online retail sales, a 26 percent increase from last year's $816 million, according to ComScore. Thanksgiving, which hadn't previously seen much shopping in any form, saw a 32 percent increase in online shopping with $633 million in sales this year, compared to $479 million in 2011.

One of the primary reasons for this may be the increasing use of mobile devices which is freeing people from needing to use their work computers for shopping. Over the holiday weekend 24 percent of consumers used a smartphone or tablet to visit a retailer's site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. And they weren't just window shopping: Mobile sales exceeded 16 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2011, according to IBM.

Apple's iPad and iPhone are the devices of choice among online shoppers. The iPad was responsible for nearly 10 percent of online shopping. This was followed by iPhone at 8.7 percent and Android at 5.5 percent, according to IBM.

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    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald,, CSO, and Boston Magazine.