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Cyber Monday is sort of a joke

Yea, the money is there — Cyber Monday has been around less than a decade, and sales have tripled in that time. But the term, coined by Shop.org based on research trends in 2004, is a bit outdated. When it was developed, it was common for people to have faster Internet connections at work than at home, but now (at least among certain sections of the population), it’s common for people to have pretty fast Internet connectivity at home. Also, much like with Black Friday and those deals often starting a week in advance of the actual day, Cyber Monday deals have commenced much earlier annually as well. There’s also “Giving Tuesday” tomorrow — although that’s more of a Canadian thing at present — which means we may readily be approaching a seven-day spending bender associated with the end of Thanksgiving. Friday: give my money to box stores. Saturday: give my money to small businesses. Sunday: Give my money to God. Monday: give my money to Amazon. Tuesday: give my money to needy children. Etc, etc. (That cycle actually might not be a bad thing, save for the Black Friday part.)

Ultimately, are you any more inclined to go to a store simply because someone has told you it’s “Black Friday” or log on to Amazon or Google Shopper simply because it’s “Cyber Monday?” Probably not. Those are marketing terms, and while the point of marketing is to get people interested in an idea — that happened with The Verge today — it’s not necessarily going to make you run out and do something. Probably the most useful thing about Cyber Monday is more what it represents about the American economy: namely, the big department store concept is fading away. I did a quick Google search for “Sears” and this was one of the top hits. I actually drove past a Sears outside of metro Minneapolis this weekend with my parents; my parents are pretty old-school people (they don’t even have Wi-Fi in their house) and one of them even said, “Whoa, Sears still exists?” If anything, that’s what Cyber Monday is about: a celebration of old transitioning to new. It’s also probably a good thing that federal government contractors don’t organize the day:

There’s some cool data about Cyber Monday here; one of the most interesting aspects is this notion that a person is 12x more likely to trust a consumer review over a manufacturer description. That’s totally logical on face — why would a manufacturer ever say anything even remotely negative about their product? — and it explains the explosion of Amazon, Yelp, and similar platforms. I will literally use Yelp for the smallest of things in any new city, and I’m endlessly fascinated by Amazon reviews (and reviewers). Another interesting thing from this data set: Facebook posts about products on Cyber Monday have almost double the ROI (click-through and purchase) if they contain a picture. (Sometimes I honestly think Facebook is just Flickr with more users. No joke.)

Here’s some more data, and here’s a few lessons from the day in 2011 via TIME. Cyber Monday does have an effect on worker productivity, as you might imagine — this article indicates that 10 percent or more of employees probably spend three hours of work time in this season (now until around Dec. 22) browsing for deals online. 33 percent of workers say they feel less productive during December (frankly, I’m surprised that number isn’t higher; December is a joke month for actual work getting done, especially with a late Thanksgiving that puts you back on Dec. 2).

Stocks are flat. It’s tax evasion central. We all could have just been doing this last night, as opposed to breathlessly discussing what it means for Amazon — 300 packages ordered per second today — to have drones.

I’m all for people spending money and helping the economy. That part I think is great. But the marketing gimmicks of certain days you shop online as opposed to somewhere else? That’s kind of dumb. You’re also probably getting screwed. Maybe we could just do away with the names of the days in the years to come and let people shop when they want to shop within their own schedules (naw, stuff like that doesn’t work for Americans). Also, the huge marketing push for Black Friday and associated days have pushed it to the top of the heap for individual days in terms of sales, although that week of December 18th is always up there in terms of week-long and individual-day sales. We all procrastinate.

Ted Bauer

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