As Cyber Monday stretches into Cyber Week, what was once the online equivalent of the Black Friday rush through retailers' doors is slowing down.
Shoppers who once had to rely on a speedy Internet connection at their workplace to find deals after the weekend are now glued to their phones and tablets throughout the year, and they've got many more options than just the Monday after Thanksgiving if they're hunting for discounts.
This year, fewer shoppers said they planned to take advantage of Cyber Monday online sales than in 2013. According to a National Retail Federation survey, 126.9 million people said they were planning to buy something online today, a 4 percent drop from last year.
NRF CEO Matthew Shay says the decline indicates that Americans are feeling more secure economically and don't need to scramble for one-day deals. Shoppers also know they can find online deals throughout the year, Shay says.
In addition to the near-constant availability of online deals, the big promotions associated with the Thanksgiving shopping rush are running longer than usual this year. Some of the biggest retailers—Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target, among others—are offering deals throughout the week, perhaps making up for this year's short holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Even so, Monday may still be the biggest day for online shopping all year, according to a prediction from Adobe.
Cyber Monday was initially concocted by the NRF in 2005 to boost online shopping. At the time, many home Internet connections were still unreliable and slow, so shoppers took advantage of their employers' high-speed connections to make online purchases after the weekend. Retailers made the most of the American tendency to shop online at work, and the Monday after Thanksgiving began breaking records for online sales every year.
Nine years later, mobile devices can access the Internet at speeds that rival those of the typical home or work connection, and shoppers are using those devices more and more. According to an IBM analysis, traffic from mobile devices exceeded desktop traffic on Thanksgiving Day for the first time ever, and the share of Black Friday purchases made from mobile devices was 27.9 percent, an all-time high.
As Americans become increasingly connected and spend more and more money online, the need to designate one day—or one week—for online purchase specials is lessened. "Shoppers have changed the way they view exclusive deals," Shay says. "They have this expectation that it's going to be there all the time."
Before long, Cyber Monday may become as outdated as the word "cyber."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.