The history of Cyber Monday

The following is an excerpt from The Cyber Monday Survival Manual.

It's that time of year again - the holiday shopping season is here. That means Cyber Monday is right around the corner.

(This photo was sent to us by the nice people at Peoplr. Please give them a follow on Twitter @PeoplrMe)

This is a pretty important time of year. According to the National Retail Federation, 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year. (Source: Forbes)

20 to 40 percent of your annual revenue - in two months?! How did we get to this point?

Much of it can be attributed to Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the entire year. Last year, more than $2B in sales took place on the Monday following Thanksgiving.

Where did Cyber Monday come from?

You first have to look at Black Friday, a term many believe was coined by retailers for the day after Thanksgiving when sales were so strong it helped stores get back in the black (read: profitable).

As more traffic and shopping moved online in the 2000s, the Monday after the Thanksgiving break became a very popular day for those returning to work to take advantage of online sales. In 2005, the spike in online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving was so dramatic the National Retail Federation coined the term "Cyber Monday"and it's stuck ever since.

How Busy is Cyber Monday?

Total sales and customer conversations continue to climb each Cyber Monday. In the graph below, total sales across the United States are shown on the left, and total conversations on the Olark network are shown on the right.

But what does that look like throughout the day on Cyber Monday? Last year IBM crunched some data and graphed the flow of sales on Cyber Monday:

The spike in sales right around 9:00pm PST caught my eye. As midnight EST approaches and some deals expire, shoppers rush to grab the last deals of the day. Overall, sales are more sustained throughout the day.

This also is true for those helping customers on chat on during Cyber Monday. We crunched our own data and came up with this:

The darker bands represent chat volume on Cyber Monday. The lighter bands represent a regular Monday. On Cyber Monday we see a peak around 7:00am PST and 10:00am PST, and then a sustained, higher number of conversations through the day, with slight increases right around 9:00pm and 10:00pm PST.

Cyber Monday Around the World

As one might expect, Cyber Monday in the United States isn't the same as Cyber Monday in other countries. Some examples:

  • Argentina Cyber Monday takes place on November 3rd and 4th. One Olark customer chatted with us and said they saw chats go from 93 to 2,000+.
  • The busiest online shopping day of the year in China is Singles Day and it takes place on November 11. Sales on the site Alibaba passed $9 billion in the first 12 hours of Singles Day.
  • 'Down Under' our friends in Australia have 'Click Frenzy' on November 17. The first Click Frenzy took place on November 20, 2012 and many websites immediately crashed, went offline, or had major server issues due to the overwhelming shopper demand.

So...are you ready for Cyber Monday? 

Download the   Cyber Monday Survival Manual!


Karl Pawlewicz

Read more posts by Karl Pawlewicz

Karl is the Head of Communications for Olark. Got a good Olark story to tell? Email him: