Tech Industry

Cyber Monday more myth than reality?

Online retailers are offering incentives to early shoppers, but people may wait, if last year is a guide.

The biggest online holiday shopping day is not, as it turns out, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Only 10 percent of Americans surveyed online said they will shop on the Web on so-called Cyber Monday, according to a report published Monday by MasterCard. The survey was conducted by Ipsos Insight for the credit card company.

Last year, the day with the highest amount of Web transactions processed was actually December 5, a week after Cyber Monday, according to MasterCard's worldwide data for 2005. However, a survey by online retail trade group of its members found that their busiest day last year was December 12., a division of the National Retail Federation (NRF), released results of its own study of holiday e-commerce on Monday.

Still, that won't stop Web businesses from trying to make Cyber Monday an event, said Scott Silverman, the executive director of Because of the time needed to allow for shipping, online retailers have a slightly shorter season than regular stores. That means both shoppers and sellers have to start the holiday season earlier, he added.

To entice shoppers to start early, retailers are giving special promotions and discounts for Cyber Monday on both items and shipping., a new Web site affiliated with, lists many of the deals that will be available.

"Free shipping--with a minimum order size, or some retailers are offering free shipping for any size order--is the most popular promotion that merchants are rolling out. They are starting slightly earlier this year than last year with their holiday promotions. Consumers said that they are planning to start shopping earlier, so the merchants want to make sure they are meeting the need," Silverman said.

About three out of four shoppers plan to shop online, MasterCard said in its report. In addition, the credit card company said that people expect to spend $300 online out of a total holiday spend of $700 each. As context, the International Council of Shopping Centers has predicted that all sales--online and offline--will reach more than $676 billion for the November-January holiday shopping season, based on U.S. Department of Commerce data.

The increase can be attributed to a greater trust in online retail systems, said MasterCard executive Michael Manchisi. "I do think there is more of a comfort with consumers around online shopping--the convenience, the security and the online providers today. You can do things pretty quickly," said Manchisi, group head of strategic account management for MasterCard Worldwide. "Maybe, in the past, people were concerned; they wanted to make sure their goods would be delivered on time. That is less of an issue today."

A significant amount of that shopping is taking place at work, according to a separate survey of consumers conducted for The study found that young people are most likely to shop online from work. Almost three-fourths of 18- to 24-year-olds, and 66.4 percent of those 25 to 34, plan to browse or buy online while at work, the group said.

That doesn't mean that young workers are necessarily goofing off on the job. According to the report, people who shopped on a work computer said they did it before work, after work or during their lunch break.