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Cyber Monday: Seven ways it's different from Black Friday

Cyber Monday exhibits its own unique traits outside of Black Friday, starting with the fact that it's outpacing the 'main' shopping holiday in terms of savings.

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    Ashley Merritt packs an order for shipping at the Amazon fulfillment center in Lebanon, Tenn. on Cyber Monday in 2014.
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When discussing late-November sales, we frequently refer to the "Black Friday season." This is because the big day itself has morphed into something bigger, even absorbing Thanksgiving. We often rope Cyber Monday into this term, too, as retailers tend to roll one day of sales into another at this time of year.

But Cyber Monday exhibits its own unique traits outside of Black Friday, starting with the fact that it's outpacing the "main" shopping holiday in savings. Cyber Monday saw more Editors' Choice deals than Black Friday in both 2014 and 2013.

So what makes Cyber Monday so special? Read on to learn a little more about everyone's second-favorite shopping holiday.

Cyber Monday Has Happier Origins

Pinning down the origin of the term "Black Friday" is not easy, but the current prevailing theory goes like this: Philadelphia police negatively coined the term in the 1950s. Apparently, hordes of people would descend upon the town on the Friday after Turkey Day, ahead of the annual Army/Navy football game on Saturday. Stores would take advantage of all the extra business by promoting big sales, and cops were stuck with long, busy shifts that left them dreading the date.

Black Friday didn't come into its more widespread, awesome reputation until the 1980s. But Cyber Monday's origins are much more recent; the term was coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005 to describe the Monday after Thanksgiving, when people continued to shop online after returning to work. And nothing makes anyone happier than goofing off at work!

And There Are Fewer Ads

Before you've even thought about where to find the best deal on a turkey, you're no doubt aware of the upcoming Black Friday sales. This is because retailers (and intrepid deal sites) have been posting Black Friday ads far in advance, sometimes as early as the beginning of October. However, we see comparatively fewer Cyber Monday ads — possibly because retailers know that shoppers will check out those sales anyway.

According to a recent DealNews survey, 85% of consumers said they'll be shopping on Cyber Monday, up from 76% in 2014. Compare that to the 53% of people who said they'll shop on Thanksgiving. Too many Cyber Monday ads might discourage even more Thanksgiving shoppers.

In-Store Doorbusters Go Bye-Bye

Along with fewer ads comes a dearth of doorbusters. Cyber Monday is an online shopping holiday, after all, so there's no reason to go knocking down the doors of your local Sears to score a $5 toaster. Of course, "doorbusters" in general are dying out. In-store shoppers have long been frustrated by the concept of low-stock items that sell out in seconds, and retailers are listening. Nowadays, it's not uncommon to find so-called doorbusters listed online on Black Friday.

Cyber Monday Has the Most Online Sales

We're not talking about coupons here; by "sales," we actually mean goods sold. Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year, and Adobe has estimated that it'll reach $3 billion in sales for the first time this year, a 12% increase over 2014. Compare that to Black Friday, which is expected to generate $2.7 billion in online sales, and Thanksgiving, which will do $1.6 billion.

Why are shoppers still eager to spend funds on Cyber Monday, even after Black Friday? According to Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst for forecast tech consultancy Forrester Research, it's because "customers had fewer negative associations with Cyber Monday than with Black Friday." See? Everyone loves shopping at work.

But Fewer Mobile Shoppers

That same Adobe report we mentioned above revealed that Thanksgiving is projected to become the king of mobile sales in 2015. For the first time ever, mobile devices will overtake more traditional computers on Thanksgiving to drive the majority — 51% — of online visits, representing 29% of online purchases that day. This mobile mania won't last, though; both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to see more traditional online traffic.

Some People Are Totally Shopping at Work

And you thought we were joking! While not a federal holiday, the Friday after Thanksgiving is a public holiday in 24 states. By Monday, everyone is back at work and almost certainly browsing sales at their desks. To be fair, a wonderfully industrious 56% of shoppers claimed they didn't shop at work last year in our survey.

Sadly, these hardworking shoppers may miss out on the best bargains. Last year on DealNews, 67% of the deals we found on Cyber Monday were posted before 5 pm ET. That means bargain hunters will have to log on during business hours to snag the best sales.

Fashionistas Love Cyber Monday

The Black Friday season is like the Olympics, with different shopping events on each shopping holiday. Where Thanksgiving and Black Friday are better for electronics, Cyber Monday shines in soft goods. Clothes and shoes are especially awesome buys, with retailers busting out Black Friday-beating coupons in several cases. Beauty products are another oft-overlooked, but awesome, Cyber Monday category.

Should you not be the sartorial sort, you can always stock up on toys, or shop for a new major appliance. Better yet, book a killer hotel deal on Cyber Monday; you've probably had enough of those visiting relatives at this point.

In the end, if you've been ignoring Cyber Monday, it's time to give this hardworking holiday another shot. With billions of dollars under its belt, this shopping extravaganza is here to stay!

Excited for Black Friday deals? Consider subscribing to the DealNews Select Newsletter to get a daily recap of all our deals; you never know when a Black Friday price will be released! You can alsodownload the DealNews apps, check out the latest Black Friday ads, or read more buying advice.

This article first appeared in DealNews.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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