November 28, 2011 at 7:12 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 12:06 AM
Retailers pulled out all the stops to lure foot traffic on Black Friday. Now, they've battling for consumer dollars in cyberspace.
Cyber Monday is likely to be the biggest day for online sales this year.
So how can you score the best deals on Cyber Monday? Here are six tips:
1) Get informed.
For starters, check out the various Black Friday deal sites, such as dealnews.com, bfads.net, and fatwallet.com. Find the retailers offering the merchandise you want, then sign up for automatic e-mail alerts. Then follow those retailers on Twitter.
"The retailers announce a lot of their deals on Twitter," says Dan de Grandpre, chief executive officer of dealnews.com, a website that tracks sales at large retailers across the country.
2) Stay up late. Get up early.
Just because Black Friday is over doesn't mean you can slack off. If anything, online crowds move faster than real ones do, so you need to be ready to take advantage when something goes on sale.
"Items get cheap and sell out very quickly," says Mr. de Grandpre. "Deals launch in the middle of the night, or very early, but it's still cheaper than going to the store."
And it's more comfortable than camping out in front of a mall store.
3) Shop around.
More retailers than ever are going to compete for online sales this year, because sales are increasingly migrating online. Last year's Cyber Monday was the biggest online spending day on record, according to market research firm comScore, with spending topping $1 billion. This Cyber Monday is expected to be even bigger. E-commerce retail sales for the entire season should top $50 billion for the first time, according to IHS Global Insight, an economic research firm based in Lexington, Mass.
"It's going to be the biggest ever, in terms of stores participating," says Charlie Graham, CEO of Shop It To Me Inc, a free online personal shopper for sales of clothing, shoes, and accessories. So don't hesitate to go to smaller, second-tier stores.
One popular Cyber Monday offering should be apparel at niche retailers, such as the Gap, Aeropostale, and American Eagle.
4) Watch for price-matching.
Do you have a favorite retailer? If you prefer shopping at specific stores, check out their price-matching policies. If they will match the low price you've found elsewhere, stick with your favorite retailer. Many retailers will price match, at least to a limited degree. Amazon.com is known as an aggressive price-matcher, says de Grandpre.
5) Look for free shipping.
"The deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are pretty similar," says Mr. Graham. So retailers try to stand out on Cyber Monday by offering free shipping on items once you spend a certain minimum.
If you can't find free shipping for an item, calculate what it would cost you and check to see if another retailer offers a similar deal with free shipping thrown in.
6) Check out the return policy.
If your holiday gift doesn't work out, how easy is it to send back for a refund? Is there a restocking fee? Who pays the return postage? Companies have dropped some of these charges to simplify returns. In general, "retailers have good return policies," Graham says. "It's easy to buy almost anything."
7) Keep the boss at bay.
Half of the sales from last year's Cyber Monday came from people at work, according to comScore.
You don't want to jeopardize your job so you can get 50 percent off on dish towels, do you? So do your boss and your career a favor.