Shopping online during the holidays is increasingly popular but the improvement of online payment, mobile security and tablet browsing make it unnecessary to wait until the "Cyber Monday" after Thanksgiving weekend.
The phenomenon of people buying online at the offices the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend was first given the name "Cyber Monday" in 2005 by a press release from Shop.org, which is the e-commerce arm of the National Retail Federation. The Internet has changed rapidly, with the expansion of Amazon and PayPal, along with the increasing computing power of smartphones.
It is becoming more popular to buy gifts online, as digital traffic research firm comScore forecasts e-commerce spending during the 2013 holiday season between November and December using desktop computers will reach $48.1 billion, an increase of 14 percent compared with $42.3 billion during that period in 2012. That figure excludes travel and large corporate purchases.
The use of mobile devices and tablets is growing rapidly, while Americans spend less time on their PCs, according to comScore, which reported that spending on smartphones and tablets rose 26 percent compared with last quarter. Analytics firm Internet Retailer Mobile 500 also forecast a total of $991 million in mobile sales for 2013, including $544 million from shopping on tablets.
Cyber Monday is also less necessary as a special day for e-commerce deals because retailers expanded holiday shopping offers to encourage people to buy more, even to shop online on Thankgiving Day, says Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight market research firm.
"Stores will start blasting the airwaves and emails and special deals on Thursday if not before," Christopher says.
Online purchases are still a small portion of the market, as e-commerce is currently 5.9 percent of retail trade, but is expected to grow to more than 7 percent of retail trade in the U.S. by 2016, according to IHS Global Insight.
"The clicks are outpacing the bricks," Christopher says. "It's easier for people to buy certain things online and to buy more of it at a lower price. It's keeping prices lower, so when people find the best deal online the brick and mortar stores have to respond in kind."
Online shopping is also moving from the PC to the tablet as companies like Google and Apple design better operating systems for mobile devices, says Ryan Reith, program director of mobile device research at International Data Corporation market research firm.
"It was much better to shop on a PC three years ago. Now there are a lot of people who don't touch a PC in a given week. They will look toward their tablet for shopping," Reith says.
Features on devices have made mobile shopping more convenient, including simpler online checkout and increased security for online payment, Reith says.
"Five or six years ago I don't think I would have felt comfortable entering my bank information on a mobile phone, while now I think it is as safe as a PC," Reith explains.