A new near-Thanksgiving selling day is rising in importance to retailers. While traditional retailers will continue to monitor store traffic and sales on Black Friday, online retailers have set their sights on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is quickly becoming one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. For the past few years, online retailers have found that sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving have been creeping higher, giving retailers an additional reason to be jolly during the ceremonial kickoff to the holiday season. According to the Shop.org/BizRate Research 2005 eHoliday Mood Study, 77% of online retailers said that their sales increased substantially last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a trend that is driving serious online discounts and promotions on Cyber Monday this year.

“On Cyber Monday, consumers set their sights on surfing for holiday gifts and shopping online,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org. “This year, online retailers will be capitalizing on the increased traffic by offering special promotions and discounts.”

Experts believe that an increase in web traffic could stem from the fact that consumers may have faster or more secure Internet connections at work and choose to shop there, or that they were unable to finish all of their shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend. Analysts also expect many consumers to shop on Cyber Monday from home after work or when their children are sleeping. Regardless of the reason or the time of day, consumers are expected to head online in droves on Cyber Monday, many during work hours.

According to a recent Shop.org survey, conducted by BIGresearch, more than one third of consumers (37%), or 51.7 million people, said they will use Internet access at work to browse or buy gifts online this holiday season. The survey found that more than half of young adults 18-24 (51%) and nearly half of those 25-34 (49%) will be shopping online during work hours. The survey also found that men (42%) are more likely than women (32%) to shop at the office.

Online retailers will be ready for the surge in sales, and many are offering extra incentives to encourage people to shop online. According to the eHoliday Mood Study, 43% of online retailers plan to offer special promotions and discounts on Cyber Monday. Deals will range from free shipping to gifts with purchase to percentages off.

According to the survey, the biggest Cyber Monday winners last year were jewelry/luxury retailers, with 89% of websites seeing substantial increases in sales, and consumer electronics retailers at 86%. Retailers who offer food, beverages, or other gourmet items (83%) and furniture and home décor (80%) also saw above-average sales surges.

Online Retailers Going All Out for Thanksgiving

Online retailers are also planning for large-scale promotions on Thanksgiving Day, when most retail stores will be closed. The survey found that 36% of online retailers will be offering special promotions and sales on Thanksgiving Day. Some will even be offering their Black Friday discounts one day early on their websites.

“Once the parades have ended and the leftovers are put away, many consumers will find a few precious hours to get a jump-start on the holidays by shopping online,” said Chuck Davis, chairman of Shopzilla. “This year, retailers will be reminding shoppers that even though their stores may be closed, their websites are always open.”

According to results released last month, all of the companies surveyed expect to see online sales increases from 2004. Some retailers are expecting big gains, with 57% of online retailers expecting holiday sales to increase by 30% or more compared to last year. One in five online retailers are will experience hyper growth with sales of 75% or higher.