Behavioral Science

The Story of Cyber Monday: Five Simple Lessons for Entrepreneurs

by . November 25th, 2011

These past few years, there’s been talk that Cyber Monday, an event that purely happens online, may actually surpass Black Friday as the biggest and most participated discount bonanza of the year. When (not if) this happens, it would be a hugely symbolic event- traditional retail would finally take a back seat to online business. Whatever happens, the story of how Cyber Monday started gives entrepreneurs several important lessons.

Why We Have Cyber Monday

The story of how retailers convinced us that Thanksgiving is the time to shop is nothing short of a giant marketing coup. Ironically enough, Black Friday itself didn’t become the huge shopping holiday it was up until online shopping really hit its stride in the United States, around 2003. And even then, the dates between December 5 up through the last Saturday before Christmas are always consistently better.

But the promotion of Cyber Monday deals and other Thanksgiving-related shopping has nonetheless led to a significant increase in sales for retailers – and increased the length of the shopping season. This has resulted in billions of dollars in additional commerce.

Cyber Monday itself got its start back in 2005, as part of a strategy thought up by to increase online sales. Market researchers noticed that there was a small spike in sales on Mondays immediately after Thanksgiving weekend. This was due to people returning to work and shopping online after avoiding the crowds or not having found what they wanted at brick-and-mortar retailers. The obvious thing to do then was to make the most of this spike by creating and promoting a whole new reason to shop on Mondays right after Thanksgiving.

Cyber Monday News

The first Cyber Monday was more hype than manic online shopping reality, and it barely made it as the 12th biggest online shopping day of 2005. But it did make the news, thanks to a press release sent out by mere days from the actual event. Even though the first Cyber Monday was a bust, enough people learned about it to make a difference in the succeeding years. As of 2010, Cyber Monday sales reached $1028M, becaming the biggest online shopping day of the year – despite (or some would argue because of) the recession. End result: lots of happy online retailers.

What We Can Learn From This

1) It’s never too late to start your own traditions

Especially one that will improve your bottom line. If you’re able to push it consistently enough, it may actually pay dividends – even when your first attempt fails. Remember Cyber Monday was not as huge a success as had hoped. For many things, you’re going to have to think in the long term.

2) Never underestimate the power of press releases

The start of the holidays tends to be a slow news week. In the case of the first Cyber Monday, there was not much for the media to report on but the shopping, or more accurately, people flocking to malls for lack of anything else to do.’s press release was timed perfectly, since news outlets had little else interesting to talk about. Even with the first Cyber Monday being more hype than reality, the reports perpetuated the idea that bargains were to be had online on the first Monday after Thanksgiving, and it eventually did become a huge online event.

3) Online promotions go hand-in-hand with traditional marketing media – even today

We wouldn’t still be in the online printing business if our customers didn’t find this true. While the internet is definitely the most powerful tool most entrepreneurs have to compete with huge players, there is a definite synergy that comes from combining online and offline marketing tactics.

4) If you still don’t do any of your business online – don’t expect to be around for much longer

Many businesses still continue to go on without a serious online component that allows people to order online. Many are doing fine- for now. But as buying habits continue to change, not having your products or services available online will only make it more difficult for you to compete. Strange that this still has to be said, but there you go.

5) Always do your homework

There wouldn’t even be a Cyber Monday or a Black Friday if market researchers weren’t on top of their game. The hard data gathered on holiday spending habits allowed retailers to turn days where they only had better-than-average business into days where they could stand to earn a huge part of their yearly income.


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.