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Cyber Monday An Unexpected Success

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-11-29

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When Shop.org coined the phrase "Cyber Monday," it was more of a whisper among themselves than a true coining. That whisper floated all the way to a teleprompter on the Today Show in November 2005, and the rest is, as they say, history. Cyber Monday is now a firmly established tradition, just one year after it's naming.

One might say "a year after its birth," but Cyber Monday was there long before it was named.

Ellen Davis, Senior Director of Strategic Communications for the National Retail Federation says Shop.org really didn't know much about it until a few retailers came to them after noticing a definite pattern: a spike in traffic from workplace computers on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

This wasn't to claim, as was widely assumed, that this was the biggest spike. Thanksgiving itself is a huge traffic day, as are the three Mondays after Cyber Monday. But the concept took off so fast, the NRF and Shop.org had little time to prepare a communication strategy.

"We told a couple of reporters about it," she told WebProNews, "and before you knew it, it was this huge phenomenon, and it kind of got away from us. We weren't anticipating the attention. We never dreamed it would be widely embraced by the media and the consumers like it was."

And it showed last year, by how off-guard retailers were taken. Only those who'd reported the pattern to begin with had promotional offers ready for online shoppers. The rest had just a week to play catch-up. When shoppers heard of this Cyber Monday idea, they were taken aback by the relative lack of deals.

But that was different this year. Google aggressively promoted its online payment service Checkout by offering online coupons to take effect on Cyber Monday. Best Buy, Circuit City, and Target were all on board, offering deals on CyberMonday.com, launched by the NRF just a week before and largely not promoted.

"We didn't pay for any advertising," says Davis, who also wanted to underscore that all commissions taken in from the site went directly to a scholarship fund set up in the name of the late Ray Greenly.

On Monday, CyberMonday.com was slammed with visits, garnering 500,000 page views per hour, a traffic-level that pushed the site to a near-grinding halt. Hitwise tells us that visits to the site were up 1400 percent last week. By mid-morning Monday, the NRF had to add another server to handle it all.

Davis says the most popular category was, as might be expected, Electronics, driving most visitors to Best Buy, Circuit City, and Target. Many offered free shipping, "always a draw for consumers," she said. "An area for gift guides and ideas is also popular."

Retailers are so pleased with the success of Cyber Monday, Davis said, that many of them say they'll be putting deals up on the site throughout the holidays.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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