Here at Deal Hunter, we’re constantly analyzing those little screens that separate the real world from the digital one. And like it or not, both worlds are expensive.
About 122 million Americans will shop online on Cyber Monday, according to Shop.org. That’s only slightly less than the 147 million who shop in brick-and-mortar stores over the three-day Black Friday weekend.
That means retailers treat online shopping as an opportunity for huge sales, and they’re catering to regular online shoppers. Those customers tend to have smartphones, Facebook pages and Twitter streams that feed them information about everything, including their favorite stores.
If you want to find a deal amid the Cyber Monday wars, you’re competing with a tech-savvy bunch. But don’t worry: Retailers have made it easy for casual Internet shoppers this year. You’ll find bargains on Cyber Monday as long as you know where to look.
Is it weird that I don’t understand what Cyber Monday is?
No, it’s pretty new. Shop.org, a branch of the National Retail Federation, coined the term in 2005 after reports that more than 70 percent of retailers experienced surges in sales on the Monday after Black Friday. According to the federation and comScore, a marketing analytics company, Americans spent about $1.25 billion on Cyber Monday last year, and experts expect similar sales for 2012. But this season, Cyber Monday is more of a sale concept than a precise day. As we said in last week’s Black Friday column, holiday shopping days are happening earlier.
So, I shouldn’t wait until Monday to look for these sales?
No, start preparing now. Some stores will announce Cyber Monday deals before Monday, so if you’re planning on shopping at 12:01 a.m., you’ll want to know what’s on sale. Stores will also announce different sales throughout the day to keep you coming back. And many retailers, including Dell and Overstock.com, have started their holiday sales already, billed as “Pre-Black Friday” online sales. Go to TheBlackFriday.com for a list of all Cyber Monday-related sales.
I did my big-box shopping on Black Friday. Do I need to shop on Cyber Monday?
There are a few reasons you should check out your favorite retailers on Cyber Monday. Big-box stores offer both in-store sales and Web-only sales, and the products they’re selling online on Cyber Monday will be different than the ones that lured your into the store Thanksgiving night. Moreover, they want you on their sites and will offer deals to get you there. Retailers love when you buy from Web sites: Not only can they chronicle your preferences and spending habits, but they can direct you through the shopping experience and control the products you see. (You know how Amazon suggests other products you might like? Retailers can’t do that in the store.) You actually have more freedom to control your experience in a store, even if you’re surrounded by fellow shoppers.
What’s the best way to learn about the deals?
This is a Web event, so you need to be plugged in. Retailers want to make sure you can access deals via a smartphone, so sign up for e-mail alerts from your favorite retailers. You can cancel the alerts Tuesday. You should also make use of social media, visiting the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite stores.
I have a Twitter account. Whom should I follow for Cyber Monday?
Twitter issued a Cyber Monday guide, encouraging users to follow accounts such as @PriceGrabber, @RetailMeNot, @MoneySavinQueen and @CouponCabin — some of which ShopSmart and other deal-hunting experts tell people to use year-round. According to Twitter, some beauty and fashion brands, including Sephora and Nordstrom, will be tweeting Twitter-specific deals or holiday codes (meaning you need to check Twitter to learn about them).
Is there a best time to shop?
There’s no universal best time to shop. Lab42, an online market-research firm, says almost a quarter of shoppers will begin shopping on Cyber Monday before 3 a.m. A case of early bird gets the worm? Perhaps. But there are also promotions throughout the day that last only an hour. Shop.org will have “Deals of the Hour,” with 24 retailers offering deals that include free shipping, free gift with purchase or dollars off already-reduced goods. Retailers including Kohl’s, Sony, Toys R Us and DSW will participate. Go to shop.org/blackfridaydeals for times.
Should I pay for shipping?
Many of the largest retailers are offering free shipping this season, so it seems foolish to pay a fortune to get your purchases. If you’re not having luck finding free shipping on Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day is Dec. 17. More than 1,000 retailers are offering free shipping on products guaranteed to arrive before Christmas. To find out who is offering free shipping on Cyber Monday, go to CyberMonday.com.
8THE BOTTOM LINE Black Friday and Cyber Monday go hand in hand. Deals on Cyber Monday will be just as good as the in-store promotions offered by retailers. But because this day is born of the Internet, you need to be plugged into social media to get the up-to-the-minute scoop on the best bargains.