Shoppers Embracing Cyber Monday, According to Professor Michelle Roehm

11.30.2010 Article, Faculty News, Retail

Cyber Monday heavily promoted by retailers

Reposted from Winston-Salem Journal | By Richard Craver

Since Cyber Monday became part of the holiday-shopping season in 2005, it has been both touted as the antidote to the Black Friday frenzy and knocked as an overhyped campaign.

Retailers, particularly big-box stores, try to maximize the Cyber Monday buzz through social-media sites and springing “screen buster” sales that may last as little as an hour — at prices similar or slightly lower than those on Black Friday. Wal-Mart even has a Cyber week promotion.

“The numbers are really strong,” said John Squire, the chief strategy officer for IBM’s Coremetrics tracking service. He also said he expects Cyber Monday to be the biggest online shopping day of the season., the digital division of the National Retail Federation, projected that there would be more than 106 million online shoppers yesterday.

By comparison, the group said there were 212 million Black Friday shoppers. That average consumer spent $365.34, up $22.03 from 2009, which added up to an estimated $45 billion in sales.

Yet, the relevancy of Cyber Monday is questioned by retail analysts and economists, in large part because of how far technology has come in terms of advancements and cost in the past five years.

The premise — perhaps the urban legend — about Cyber Monday is that consumers without online access at home used their employers’ secured high-speed Internet connection to buy gifts that escaped their grasp on Black Friday.

But with the proliferation of mobile devices and the drop in laptop computer prices, employers no longer are the main Internet access point. For example, projected that more than 7 million consumers would make a Cyber Monday purchase through a mobile device.

Also, retailers in recent years have embraced the online “spoiler” or sneak-peek aspects of the big bargains for both shopping days. Some even offered Cyber Monday specials on Sunday.

Cyber Monday is “highly relevant in that shopping habits have been established,” said Michelle Roehm, a marketing professor and a senior associate dean of faculty at the Schools of Business at Wake Forest University.

“It has become an event that many consumers look forward to. Retailers can harness shopping momentum that’s already out there and try to attract the all-important early holiday sales.”

Tony Plath, a finance professor at UNC Charlotte, said that Cyber Monday tends to draw a different consumer than Black Friday. “Many people, like me, would rather drink bleach than go to the mall on Black Friday,” Plath said. “That’s the Cyber Monday target market.”

Plath said he expects that fewer employees shopped at work yesterday because more employers monitor their nonwork Internet use.

“I think Cyber Monday is more a relic of digital days gone by and a media creation these days than it is a substantive selling opportunity for Web merchants,” Plath said.

It was hard to find merchants with local ties offering Cyber Monday specials. Hanesbrands Inc. covered yesterday with extended Thanksgiving weekend sales on websites for four brands.

Britt Beemer, the chairman of America’s Research Group, has been a critic of Cyber Monday hype, calling the campaign “a hoax” and its shopper projections off base.

“Nobody wants to let the air out of the balloon about it, but there really isn’t a sales spike that day,” Beemer said. “It was just the National Retail Federation’s way of building up confidence in Internet shopping.

“As far as people making it the official opening day for online shopping, please. Our research has shown that if there was an online deal close enough on Black Friday, they’re not going to wait for Cyber Monday in hopes of a slightly better one for fear of the item getting sold out.”