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Cyber Monday 2011: Record sales expected as Amazon, Best Buy push online deals

Cyber Monday 2011 is expected to break sales records from previous years according to some studies, as consumers look to take advantage of steep discounts and online deals. As Hayley Tsukayama reported:

Cyber Monday is emerging from the shadow of Black Friday as another major retail day as customers make the shift to online shopping.

Sales during the online shopping day topped $1 billion last year and could reach $1.2 billion this year, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. What is known as Cyber Monday became the largest online sales day of the year for the first time in 2010, the report said. Though the online bargain day still has a long way to go before it catches up with Black Friday, Internet retailers are expected to do well this year after high sales from the weekend. ComScore reported that e-commerce spending was up 26 percent online for the days following Thanksgiving, the Associated Press reported Sunday. A Friday estimate from IBM research found that online shopping was up 20 percent.

Black Friday sales set records this year, pulling in $52.4 billion, according to figures from the National Retail Foundation. Those numbers, which represent sales over a four-day period that starts on Thanksgiving, are up 16.7 percent compared with the same period last year.

Shopping behemoth Amazon is making a big push for Cyber Monday, though it is also doing its best to feed consumers’ appetites for bargains by staggering the release of their best deals throughout the week. Other stores on the Web-- such as Best Buy, Barnes and Noble and Overstock.com --- are offering deep discounts on electronics, toys and other products.

It’s estimated that half of all Cyber Monday purchases last year were made at work, attributed partly to the fast-paced nature of online shopping. While there’s little risk of being trampled on the way to grab the best online specials, shoppers still need to jump on deals before stock runs out.

Many shoppers are wary of online scams as they surf discount sites in the hunt for the perfect deal. As Hayley Tsukayama explained:

As retailers slash prices left and right, online shoppers have to be on the lookout for good deals and beware of deals that are too good to be true.

Online shoppers prowling the Web for deals have to be extra careful on Cyber Monday, since scammers will take advantage of users who may not realize that the Web sites they visit may not be legitimate. Since advertisements promising deep discounts are the norm rather than the exception on the year’s biggest online shopping day, shoppers may be tempted to let their guard down and click pop-ups or banner ads promising unbelievable deals.

The Better Business Bureau has put up some tips for the holiday season, including a recommendation that online shoppers use their credit cards for purchases. In case of fraud, it’s a bit easier to dispute and control credit card charges. It’s a little more difficult with debit card charges, which give thieves direct access to your checking or savings accounts.

Good rules of the road also include checking that a site has an “https://” heading before entering your payment or personal information. That extra “s” in the start of a URL and/or a lock icon in your browser window is a signal that the site is secure.

You should also never respond to e-mails that ask for your personal or financial information, even if the message claims that the information is needed to resolve an order. Legitimate sites shouldn’t even ask you to e-mail that kind of information to them. If you receive that kind of e-mail and are concerned about an order’s status, then you should look up the company’s customer service department’s phone number or e-mail on its Web site and contact it with your concerns.

Many businesses did not limit themselves to ‘Black Friday’ or ‘Cyber Monday’ deals, launching ‘Green Tuesday’ and ‘Magenta Saturday’ sales. As AP reported:

Cyber Monday. Green Tuesday. Black Friday. Magenta Saturday.

Chances are you won’t find any of these holidays on your calendar. Yet retailers are coming up with names for just about every day of the week during the holiday shopping season.

During T-Mobile’s “Magenta Saturday,” the event named for the company’s pinkish-purple logo earlier this month offered shoppers the chance to buy cellphones and some tablets on a layaway plan. Mattel lured customers in with discounts of 60 percent off toys for girls and boys on “Pink Friday” and “Blue Friday.” And outdoor retailer Gander Mountain is giving shoppers deals on camouflage and other gear every Thursday through December during “Camo Thursdays.”

“There are hundreds of promotions going on this time of year,” says Steve Uline, head of marketing for Gander. “We needed to do something a little bit different.”

It’s difficult to get Americans to spend money when many are struggling with job losses, underwater mortgages or dwindling retirement savings. But merchants are hoping some creative marketing will generate excitement among shoppers during the last two months of the year, a time when many of them make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. And they know that a catchy name can make a huge difference.

“The more special you make it sound, the more you might be able to get people,” says Allen Adamson, a managing director at brand consulting firm Landor Associates. “It’s tricky to come up with something simple and sticky.”

More from The Washington Post

More shoppers, more spending, but no revised holiday spending forecasts

Online shopping sales jump 26 percent on Black Friday; Thanksgiving sales also up sharply

Surf smart for Cyber Monday

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