It may only be five years old, but Cyber Monday is quickly becoming one of the biggest shopping days of the year – on and offline.
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The term was coined for the Monday after Black Friday where online retailers and websites provided their biggest sales of the year. Last year, it was the second biggest shopping day of the year, pulling in $834 million dollars according to Com Score. This year, companies – from those who have online only presence to others who have online and physical stores – are trying to cash in on the action.
“We view it as a really good extension of Black Friday and an important part of the holiday season,” said Senior Vice President of Staples business delivery Steve Bussberg. “We view it as one big season.”
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Retail websites are preparing for the anticipated extra traffic on Monday by beefing up customer service, offering free shipping and most importantly, making sure that items are in stock. Amazon.com’s VP of Global Communications Craig Berman said that the companies primary concern was making sure that the in demand items we’re available for customers who would want to buy them for the holidays, as well as trying to keep their prices as low as possible. One thing about online retailers like Amazon.com, Berman pointed out, is that while physical stores might have great deals on Black Friday, they’re often limited in the stock they carry. However, buying from an online site means no parking, no waiting in checkout lines and more of each item for you to buy. Shopping online allows you to use other functions, such as Staples.com inventory counter where you can see how many of that product is still available at your local store as well as in their online warehouse. “I think a lot of people go out and look for deals on Black Friday, but there’s a limited quantities on those deals,” he explained, “They don’t stand in line at 3AM in the cold waiting to get in. Most folks don’t get the item they were looking for.”
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To stay in stock, Amazon.com and other like-minded companies have to predict what’s going to sell big this season. Across the board, companies are banking on the popularity of e-readers this holiday season. The Kindle remains Amazon’s best-selling and most wished for product. Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne echoes that statement, saying that e-readers are expected to sell well this season as well. There’s also the usual digital cameras (especially pocket-sized video cameras like the Flip) and portable GPS systems that are expected to stay high on the list. “They’re looking for a lot of technology,” Bussberg said.
Cyber Monday also gains another benefit from not having to make their customers go to a store to buy products: Most people can shop at home or at work. Most of the purchases on the sales holiday are ordered from people at work. Online retailers are also focusing on making shopping quicker and easier. Amazon.com launched a new iPad sales app so people can shop on the go (“We basically rewrite the site for the iPad,” Berman explained), while Staples.com focused on an iPhone app that not only tells you the closest location, but includes the weekly ad and the amount of stock at east online/offline location. That makes sense for companies like Staples.com, who put a heavy emphasis on small businesses. They hope that Cyber Monday will help encourage smaller companies to order from their website year round instead of having to rely on different retailers for their needs. “That’s why we think Cyber Monday is so successful for us,” Bussberg said. “[Companies] are coming off their break, and we can provide them special deals for Cyber Monday, and they can take advantage of that.”
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There are a couple of problems that Cyber Monday runs into, however, that traditional retail stores might not. For one thing, people don’t get to physically see and handle the items, which makes some wary about the product they may be buying. Overstock.com’s Byrne said, however, that unlike retail stores where people have to rely on salespeople for opinions on a product, their site has user reviews to help you decide the quality of an item. Overstock.com also prides themselves on excelling on treating the consumer right. The National Retail Service ranked the website’s customer service #2 overall among US retailers, dispelling the myth that online sites can’t provide a great customer experience. Reviews play a big part of the Amazon.com experience, Berman says, especially when it comes to children’s toys. Instead of guessing whether or not the child on your list would want a particular toy, users can rely on other people who have bought the product to tell them if their kids played a lot with the item or put it down after one day. And, like most companies, they’re offering free shipping on orders just to entice more customers.
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“We’re about easy, we want to make it easy for our customer,” Bussberg said. “During the year, we’re about providing great service and easy to shop stores,but during this very busy time to find gifts they need, it’s easy to go on the website. We’ve got some great products, some great gifts and a lot of exciting new products. It’s all about websites being easy to shop from and being able to buy what you want.
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