How Did Cyber Monday Even Start?

There's a reason shoppers started doing more online shopping after Thanksgiving, but it had nothing to do with sales.


The Thanksgiving turkey has been carved. Black Friday shoppers have gone home with their discounted loot. Now, millions wait for the next big event of the holiday season: Cyber Monday.

Last year, Americans spent more than $3 billion online for Cyber Monday, making it the biggest e-commerce sales day in the country. But how did such a “holiday” come to be?

Thank Ellen Davis, senior vice president of research and strategic initiatives for the National Retail Federation, who coined the term in 2005. For the previous several years, the NRF had noticed a recurring spike in online revenue and traffic on the Monday following Thanksgiving. They believed it was because people were making purchases from their computers at work, where the Internet connections were faster and their kids couldn’t get a sneak peek at their gifts.

The group issued a press release a few days before Thanksgiving, 2005, where they debuted the term “Cyber Monday.” (Davis had also considered calling it Black Monday, like Black Friday, and Blue Monday, for blue hyperlinks. But the former also refers to the day world stock markets crashed, and the latter was too depressing.) According to the statement, 77 percent of online retailers saw their sales “increase substantially” on that Monday the previous year and expected similar results.

They were right. The New York Times reported on the new term, and publicity spread. That Monday, online sales reached almost a half-billion dollars, a 26 percent increase from the previous year.

As Cyber Monday became more recognized, shoppers bought into more of its deals and discounts, but it never won the title of “Biggest Online Shopping Day of the Year.” This led companies that track online spending to argue that the day was primarily a marketing gimmick and wouldn’t break any records since digital promotions rarely fell on the same day.

But in 2014, they were proven wrong. Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in the country, raking in over $2 billion in sales. Now that the bar has been raised to $3 billion, who knows how much the e-commerce industry will continue to grow?

However, it will probably take a while to become the biggest online shopping day in the world. That honor goes to Single’s Day in China. Last year, shoppers spent over $14.3 billion in 24 hours. (Related: Pay attention to these 16 signs of fake online reviews.)

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.