If there was one sign that the world has gone digital, it is the fact that the fourth week of November is now eagerly anticipated by US online shoppers rather than the celebration of Thanksgiving. First we had Black Friday, the day when US retailers would throw open their doors early and signal the start of Christmas trading. As the internet developed, more and more online retailers realized that the days after Thanksgiving were a peak shopping period as well, and started to offer online discounts over and above the bricks and mortar stores. Cyber Monday was born in 2005 when a study by Shop.org had noted that online retailers saw a huge spike in sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The amount of money spent in the U.S. on Cyber Monday has doubled in just five years from $610 million in 2006 to over $1.25 billion last year. One retailer has stood behind this huge growth, using its own sales figures as a barometer for the whole online economy – Amazon.
Not only has the online giant monopolized U.S. retailing but its websites in the UK and Germany have fast become the biggest retailers in those respective countries. Through Amazon’s research into online buying behaviors, it has coined Monday, 3 December as Europe’s equivalent of Cyber Monday.
Similar to NetNames, Amazon.co.uk also predicts that next Monday will be the busiest online shopping day of the year in the United Kingdom. In 2011, Amazon handled over three million individual transactions, up by almost 25% from 2010. In terms of money in the tills, us Brits spent 87% more in 2011 than in 2010 with £19 million per hour making our credit cards red hot.
On Monday we will make 115 million visits to retail websites, up 36% on last year. It will, without doubt, be the busiest day ever in online retail history in the UK. Brits will spend over 15 million hours online, equating to 15 minutes per person. For those retailers who enjoyed a very busy Black Friday, such as John Lewis Stores, which took £105 per second online, Cyber Monday has all the ingredients to be just as manic. Amazon has taken on more than 10,000 seasonal employees in preparation for the start of the online shopping bonanza.
Exciting times indeed! But with great opportunity comes even greater risks.
Unfortunately, there are some cybercriminals out there who see online bargain hunters as their prey. As humans we are programmed to search out the best deals around, and as proved in the U.S, during Cyber Monday cybercrime is as rife as ever.
Today’s cybercriminals are clever; according to Havocscope, the industry for counterfeit and blackmarket goods is worth £43 billion in the UK alone. This figure continues to grow as the fake websites look more realistic, and the offers are made to be more enticing. Earlier this week, US and European law enforcement agencies announced that they seized 132 domain names selling counterfeit goods, taking down the offending websites in the process. In addition to the websites, the authorities also identified Paypal accounts with over $175,000 in balances from online counterfeit sales.
Every year the “must-have” Christmas toys drive parents to desperate measures. According to NetNames, this year, there are three items that demand is sure to outstrip supply – the new Furby (old hat for some of us who can remember them first time around), the Leap Pad 2 and the new Nintendo Wii U which launches on Friday. Each of these items can be found at bargain prices on online trading sites such as Alibaba.com. In fact, NetNames actually found over 88,000 listings for popular Christmas toys on just one well known market place site. The moral here is, if the offer looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is. If you do actually receive any goods after parting with your hard earned cash it will almost certainly be a poor quality imitation.
Being taken in by fake websites isn’t the only danger on Cyber Monday. We are becoming more and more dependent on our smart phones to manage our lives. Last year mobile data traffic increased over 200%, with app development being a massive growth industry. Bargain-hungry shoppers use their phones to find the best deals, often being tricked into downloading apps that have hidden purposes. Online threat experts McAfee saw the volume of new malware targeting mobile devices rocket in the past two years, with 6,000 new mobile threats found in the first quarter of 2012; more than in the previous two years put together. The lure of bargain shopping or online voucher codes on your mobile device may end with your personal details ending up in the hands of online criminals.
So enjoy your online shopping extravaganza on Manic ‘Cyber’ Monday. But to avoid it being a ‘Blue Monday’ just remember our three golden rules:
- If it seems too good to be true, it normally is
- If you are unsure of the authenticity of a website, do a simple WHOIS check and see when the domain name was registered and to whom
- If you are asked to download any software or smartphone app to access a website, navigate away