With November looming just around the corner, the Quarter 4 sales season is quite close all of a sudden. The two biggest shopping days of the season are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, although both days have been extended to full weeks which are filled to bursting with all sorts of amazing discounts, bargains and savings.

But what is the difference between the two days? Do they focus on different types of products?

The Origin of the Days

Black Friday dates way back to the 1950s, when people would flood into Philadelphia in preparation for the much anticipated Navy football games. With the sudden influx of new people in the town, local businesses used to make a lot more profits. In an effort to outdo each other, the local shops would create incentives in the form of ‘one day only’ discounts to attract and maintain more customers. They started calling this day ‘Black Friday’ as a good day of sales was typically enough to put these businesses officially in the black for the rest of the year. Ironically, nobody thinks about football when they think about Black Friday, as the shopping element has completely taken over.

Cyber Monday is a much more recent addition to the Quarter 4 shopping calendar. It all started in 2005, after documentation by the National Retail Federation (of America) showed that people are willing to shop throughout the entire Thanksgiving weekend. They noted that many traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores closed on this weekend, indicating a stark contrast between consumer intent and store opening times. Online retailers were quick to seize upon this gap in the market and made huge profits during this period. With few traditional stores open, it meant that an unprecedented amount of consumers went online. With so much web traffic, online stores needed to offer better deals than each other in order to entice clickthrough and conversions. Aping the success of Black Friday, the event became known as Cyber Monday. To cement the digital aspect of Cyber Week, most stores specialise in electronics, with video games being particularly popular during this week.

What is the Difference?

Being the first day of the official Thanksgiving season, gifts and present items generally take the lead in terms of overall sales. Toys and technological devices are also popular during the Black Friday season, especially since they tend to be heavily discounted. Many shoppers see this as an opportunity to alleviate the stress associated with Christmas shopping, as quality products at reasonable prices are often in short supply come December. Online and offline stores tend to share the lion’s share of revenue during Black Friday Week.

During Cyber Week, the vast majority of purchases are made online, with many offline stores only paying lip service to the event, having already cleared most of their unwanted stock during Black Friday Week. Cyber Week is seen as a more relaxed shopping atmosphere than Black Friday, with consumers shopping from their lap top or desk top computers in the comfort of their own homes or, increasingly, on their mobile smartphones and tablet-style devices (see our tips for optimising your website for mobile here). This is a far cry from the chaotic scenes which are often noted in traditional offline stores on Black Friday…