As countless media reports are informing us, tomorrow is "Cyber Monday," the day that supposedly kicks off the online holiday shopping season. The brazenly cynical coinage of "Cyber Monday" was recounted here last year, when the masterminds at Shop.org saw "an opportunity to create some consumer excitement" by anointing the Monday after Thanksgiving with a new title modeled on "Black Friday." The idea was to make "Cyber Monday" a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, boosting online sales on a day that had previously ranked as only the twelfth busiest on the shopping calendar.
So how much did last year's "Cyber Monday" hype pay off? Depends who you ask. According to press accounts relying on statistics from Shop.org, the Monday after Thanksgiving was the second biggest day for online retail sales in 2005. But as far as I can tell by Shop.org's holiday shopping report, all they can actually claim is that Cyber Monday received the second-most votes in a survey asking retailers, "What day during the 2005 holiday season represented the largest amount of revenue from sales?" Market research from comScore suggests that Cyber Monday was in fact the ninth busiest online shopping day last year, with $485 million in transactions. That paled in comparison to the real peak two weeks later: Dec. 12, 2005 saw $556 million spent online.
Just to confuse matters further, a company called Coremetrics says that the zenith of the online shopping season occurs not two weeks after Cyber Monday but one week after, or December 4 on this year's calendar. A Nov. 6 press release from Coremetrics seeks to debunk the "marketing myth" of Cyber Monday and introduces yet another neologism for what the company believes will be the busiest online shopping day: "eDay." In this battle of marketing coinages, "eDay" has certain advantages: the snappy "e-" prefix is a bit more au courant than "cyber-", William Gibson fans notwithstanding. (Really, when was the last time you heard anyone refer to "cyberspace" unironically? It sounds so Matrix-y and Y2K-ish.) Plus, "eDay" has triumphal resonances with "V-Day" and "D-Day."
But I wouldn't count on "eDay" gaining the neologistic upper hand over "Cyber Monday." Media commentators have firmly latched on to the "Cyber Monday" concept, even as they acknowledge that it isn't really the busiest online shopping day of the season. Perhaps writing about Cyber Monday helps fill the post-Thanksgiving lull in the news cycle, and it's an easy followup to the boilerplate "Black Friday" shopping stories. I would also expect online retailers to continue transforming Cyber Monday into a legitimate shopping event by offering all sorts of sales and promotions for the Monday after Thanksgiving. It could take another year or two, but the self-fulfilling marketing prophecy of Cyber Monday might still come to pass.Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at November 26, 2006 11:15 AM