By all accounts, Cyber Monday 2018 was a roaring success. With, according to the most popular estimate, 7.9 billion in online sales, the result beat forecasts for the day and represents a 19.7 percent increase over 2017’s $6.6 billion in sales. It was good enough to be the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history and to get the recently turbulent stock market surging by the end of Monday afternoon.
And given the “more is more” aesthetic that tends to pervade U.S. consumer culture during the holiday season, it should come as no surprise that Cyber Monday didn’t exactly end on Cyber Monday.
In much the same way that Black Friday has become a month-long event that kicks off on Nov. 1, Cyber Monday has begun its drift outward, staking out real estate in the entire week that follows. Among the merchants that kept the sales holiday alive for a few extra days this year were Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Gap Brands, Saks Fifth Avenue, Wayfair, Birchbox, JCPenney, J.Crew, Puma, Shutterstock and L.L.Bean – just to name a few on a list that goes on and on and on.
And while some of the big extensions this year were due to technical issues – as Cyber Monday generated a bit more enthusiasm than some merchants were expecting – much of them seem strategic. Because, psychologically speaking, timed sales are a good way to get customers spending.
The Technical Foibles
While too much consumer interest doesn’t sound like much of a problem for a retailer to face, it can quickly become an issue when all of that interest shows up at once and crashes the website. It was a situation that recurred a few times during Cyber Monday, leaving some retailers scrambling to extend their sales just to make sure that everyone who tried to buy on the big day was actually able to complete their purchase.
“Many retailers are experiencing tech issues with their servers, perhaps underestimating how many people would shop online,” said consumer savings expert and personal finance blogger Andrea Woroch.
Among notable names hit with technical difficulties throughout the day was Shutterfly, which ended up sending an apology email to its customers before inviting them back for their extended Cyber Monday on Tuesday.
Lenox hit similar issues, and wrote a similar apology that noted “not every order could be processed.”
Jewelry company BaubleBar was a bit more complimentary to shoppers in its apology: “Your amazing response to our Cyber Monday event was overwhelming — both to us and, unfortunately, to our site as well,” the firm wrote, before noting it had extended its Cyber Monday sale until Wednesday.
Other retailers, like Old Navy, saw their sites crash wholesale, while Newegg and Walmart both experienced server issues during the holiday sales weekend.
The Strategy of the Extended Sale
For all the retailers that expanded their promotions because they “had” to for one technical reason or another, a good deal more seemed to have done so purely voluntarily. Cyber Monday, it seems, can’t be contained to a single day as of 2018.
So why not just anoint the entire week “Cyber Week?”
Well, according to some experts, doing so might actually be bad for sales.
Scarcity has a tendency to boost sales: Customers are more likely to purchase an item if they believe it is about to go out of stock, or if they believe they are at risk of losing a discount. And restricting time is an especially powerful tactic in influencing a customer’s wants. One study showed when healthy food options were made available as a “limited time offer,” shoppers could be induced to choose fruits and vegetables over items like pizza and ice cream (which were not advertised as available for a limited time only). Scarcity, according to the study, can be used as a “weapon of influence.”
Retailers have been extending their Cyber Monday sales, but often changing them. There are deals every day of the week, but the specifics may differ.
But then, sales and rotating deals are common throughout the holiday season, even if they don’t happen to fall on a day (or week, or month) with a special title. Retail blogger Rick Broida from The Cheapskate noted that as easy as it is to get swept up in the various deals that crop up between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they aren’t quite the event that they are marketed to be.
“I’m here to tell you that every day is Black Friday – and Cyber Monday. There will be some solid deals this November, no doubt about it, but I see similar ones all year,” he recently wrote.
But with the holiday season shopping season now in its prime time, the rest of the year probably matters a good deal less to shoppers than the right now.
And right now, it is still Cyber Monday in some places, even if the calendar says that it’s actually Thursday.