Cyber Monday Myth or Reality? Can it Drive $500 million in Online Sales?

The Monday after Thanksgiving -- dubbed Cyber Monday by the National Retail Federation -- is one of the year's busiest online-shopping days. The number of online shoppers is expected to rise to nearly 115 million this holiday season, up 6% from a year ago, according to New York market-research firm Jupiter Research (WSJ reports).

According to the Shop.org/BizRate Research 2005 eHoliday Mood Study, 77% of online retailers said that their sales increased substantially last year on this Monday, a trend that is driving serious online discounts and promotions on Cyber Monday this year. Some 43% of online retailers plan to offer special promotions and discounts on Cyber Monday

Consumer spending in November and December last year was nearly 20% of the annual total, according to the Commerce Department. Jupiter Research forecasts U.S. online holiday sales will reach $32 billion this year, up 18% from 2005. Americans will spend an average of $791.10 each on holiday merchandise this year, according to Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation.

Total holiday online sales for the key November-December shopping months are expected to grow 24% this year to more than $19 billion, according to market research firm comScore Networks.

Even with all the blitz and the media coverage, Cyber Monday isn't nearly the biggest online shopping or spending day of the year. It ranks only as the 12th-biggest day historically, according to market researcher comScore Networks. It's not even the first big day of the season. Sales hit $441 million on Tuesday, Nov. 22, the biggest day to date.

Big Online plays during this holiday season:

Amazon.com captured 14% of visits to the top 100 retail Web sites in October, according to research firm Hitwise.

Circuit City Stores, Gap, Wal-Mart Stores, Petco Animal Supplies, and Home Depot. Yahoo Shopping service now allows shoppers to sort merchandise by free shipping and other deal types. 

New breed of search engines: Become.com, TheFind.com and Mpire.com.

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