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Retailers try to turn 'Cyber Monday' into 'Cyber Weekend'

Taking the Monday out of Cyber Monday could extend major online shopping event, online retailers hope

A few major retailers want to get a jump on Cyber Monday by launching their online sales over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Both WalMart.com and Sears.com are trying to take the Monday out of Cyber Monday, the marketing name given to the first Monday after Thanksgiving when shoppers start making making their holiday purchases online.

Walmart announced today that its Cyber Monday sales will kick off on Saturday and is naming the week between Saturday, Nov. 24 and Sunday, Dec. 2 as "Cyber Week." The retailer is trying to pull in online shoppers with daily deals and free shipping on more than 100,000 items.

Sears, meanwhile. is launching its Cyber Monday event at 1 a.m. ET on Sunday. The retailer also is telling shoppers that if they set up a profile with their mobile phone number, Sears will text them when sales are about to start.

It's not surprising that major retailers would want to extend Cyber Monday considering how many people are expected to make at least some of their holiday purchases then.

According to a survey by PriceGrabber, when asked which days they plan to shop over the long Thanksgiving weekend, which included Monday, 41% said they will do some online shopping on Cyber Monday. That's up from 37% last year and 33% in 2010.

The report, based on an October survey of 4,958 U.S. online shoppers, also showed that 84% said they are lured into shopping on Cyber Monday because of daily deals and free shipping.

"This could be a tough Christmas season for retailers," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "Most consumers are going to be watching their spending pretty closely. By upping the ante on Cyber Monday, retailers are looking to get ahead of their competitors."

Olds noted that brick-and-mortar retailers are taking similar steps, pushing up the start of Black Friday shopping. The day after Thanksgiving is a major event in the retail calendar, when many people start their holiday shopping.

This year, some stores, including Walmart and Target, are opening their doors on Thursday evening for the beginning of the so-called Black Friday event.

"This is the natural progression of retail competition," said Olds. "First they open earlier and earlier on Friday. Now they're opening their doors late Thursday. The same thing has to happen for their online portals too ... But retailers looking to score big sales had better realize that their Cyber Monday deals will have to be truly serious discounts because consumers will be online comparing what they're offering instantly."

Industry analysts have warned that online shopping often gets done during work hours, causing a drain on productivity and bandwidth.

So could an early weekend start to Cyber Monday save companies from dealing with so many workers shopping on the job? Probably not, according to Olds.

"Even though Cyber Monday is probably going to eventually turn into Cyber Friday Afternoon, people will still do quite a bit of their holiday shopping from work on Monday," he added. "They'll compare notes with their co-workers and friends, then attempt to snag some deals on Monday. Plus, retailers who are disappointed with their Cyber Weekend take will probably get even a bit more aggressive on Monday."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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