As the Cyber Monday phenomenon was brought to light, however, there was a common misconception that it was the heaviest online spending day of the year. While Comscore always observed a significant increase in spending on this day, online spending typically continued to climb into mid-December with several individual spending days surpassing the Cyber Monday totals.
Since its inception, we have witnessed an extremely strong growth in Cyber Monday spending with sales more than doubling from 2005-2010, with a compound annual growth rate of 16% during that timeframe. 2010 was an especially important year in the history of Cyber Monday as online spending reached $1.028 billion, the first time on record that a single day had eclipsed the $1 billion spending threshold. It also achieved another landmark by finishing as the heaviest online spending day of the year for the first time in history!
nterestingly, from 2005-2007 Cyber Monday wasn’t even close to the top of the ranking, going from the 8th heaviest spending day to 12th to 9th. But in 2008, Cyber Monday’s overall importance in the context of the holiday shopping season began to change as it surged up the ranking to #3. The following year it ranked as the second heaviest spending day, and finally culminated in 2010 assuming the top position for the year.
Many might be wondering what dynamics shifted Cyber Monday’s relative importance to the holiday season, and I suspect that there is a combination of factors at play. The first such factor was the recession that began with the 2008 financial crisis. That year saw retail spending pull back considerably and it was the first and only time in history that online spending growth was actually negative for the holiday season. Retailers resorted to significant discounting during the holiday season to induce consumer spending, and timed much of it to begin on Cyber Monday. The heightened importance of discounts raised overall consumer awareness of Cyber Monday, which I believe has spilled into subsequent years.
The second factor is the number of calendar days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2008, Thanksgiving fell five days later than the previous year, creating pent-up consumer demand (since most spending picks up post-Thanksgiving) that likely gave Cyber Monday an additional boost that year. In 2009 and 2010 the number of days between holidays has expanded by one day each year, but the prime shopping season has remained somewhat shorter than average which has likely bolstered Cyber Monday spending.