Member Exclusive   //   November 30, 2020

‘Cyber Monday has become Cyber November’: How the digital shopping day’s evolution is affecting marketers

This article was reported on — and first published by — Digiday, Modern Retail’s sibling publication.

This year, some retailers and major marketers are treating Cyber Monday as a Cyber Week or even as an unofficial Cyber Month, boasting sales once reserved for a single day for much of November.

Lengthening Cyber Monday from one day to several days or weeks isn’t all that surprising given the rise in e-commerce due to the pandemic. With more holiday shopping happening online this year, getting shoppers’ attention with early deals is a logical move, according to industry analysts who say that worries about shipping delays has people shopping earlier for holiday deals this year.

“In previous years consumers have been trained to wait for the deal, but not this year; brands have been offering unprecedented discounts all year long,” said Ruth Bernstein, CEO of creative agency Yard NYC. “Even the most promotionally-driven retailers must behave differently this year in order to compete.”

But even if it’s a logical move to stretch out discounts typically reserved for Cyber Monday, some industry analysts say that it can create a more difficult environment for marketers and that the day could be less relevant going forward. Of course, some say that evolution was already happening.

“Cyber Monday had a good run,” said Mathieu Champigny, CEO of full-service content agency Industrial Color. “Cyber Monday has become Cyber November, even Cyber December. It’s not special anymore.”

Reasons vary: In recent years, the lines between Cyber Monday and Black Friday have blurred as Black Friday sales have been available online and Cyber Monday deals have been touted ahead of time. Those lines have only gotten blurrier this year. With that being the case, shoppers now expect to get a deal wherever they shop. With discounts expected — and expected to last for days on end — discounts don’t help brands stand out and, in some instances, can be a race to the bottom.

That’s why some agency execs say that they expect Cyber Monday to evolve this year and going forward with marketers not only offering discounts but new perks or limited edition merchandise for the day to stand out.

Of course, Cyber Monday wasn’t always about discounts. In 2005, after tracking the rise in online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving, execs coined the term “Cyber Monday” and put out a press release about it. The term was meant to define a phenomenon of people shopping online at their offices the Monday after Thanksgiving, taking advantage of the high-speed internet as well as the ability to shop without loved ones snooping, according to Scott Silverman, co-founder of CommerceNext and former executive director.

“It didn’t exist as a promotional item on the calendar,” said Silverman, adding that after the release the term was used by the Wall Street Journal and then media coverage of the day “snowballed” from there. “Going into 2006 the retailers decided to hop on the Cyber Monday bandwagon and begin promoting sales for it.”

The day has since become a staple for many retailers and brands with planning for sales and advertising around the day happening months in advance.

Even as the concept of Cyber Monday evolves past a single day, industry analysts expect that enthusiasm for sales and discounts during and past the coronavirus will remain. Figuring out how to stand out as sales last longer will be the challenge for marketers going forward.

When it comes to this year, “the brands that will win the holiday season will be the ones that don’t focus on sales or deal messaging, but instead connect through emotional stories,” said Bernstein. “Making customers feel comforted and understood during this difficult season will inspire people to feel good about buying gifts from your brand online all season long.”