How Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday Different?

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As the holiday season approaches, there are two sales you’ll be hearing about a lot—Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Both sales take place within days of each other, and both offer good deals for holiday shoppers. These huge deal days are the highlights of the holiday sale season for good reason, but how are the two sales different?

In the last few years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have started to blur together in the minds of some shoppers. The distinction between the two has faded with the rise of online shopping and the extension of both sales into week-long shopping events. It can feel like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become one big mega sale.

The two sales that bookend the Thanksgiving weekend aren’t carbon copies of each other, though. From their histories to their best deals, there are key differences between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We’ve dug in and found those differences to help you get the most out of these two popular sales.

What Is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. It has signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping season for decades. While it wasn’t called Black Friday until the 1960s, the day after Thanksgiving has been viewed as the kickoff of the holiday shopping season since the 1920s. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 had a lot to do with that—the beloved holiday tradition was conceived as a way to get shoppers excited to go out and do their holiday shopping.

Once upon a time, it was strictly in-store. Shoppers had to visit their favorite retailers—often lining up for hours—to score deals. Now many retailers have expanded their Black Friday online presence with deals also available on their websites. It has also expanded into a multi-day sale. Now Black Friday deals are available throughout the week of Thanksgiving at many stores and websites.

What Is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving. It began in 2005 as a way to promote online holiday shopping. It may be hard to remember a time before online shopping, but back in 2005, it was a whole new frontier that some shoppers were hesitant to try.

It isn’t an accident that Cyber Monday is on the Monday after Thanksgiving. The National Retail Federation, who coined Cyber Monday, selected the day because they saw a spike in online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving for a few years in a row. Back in the early to mid-2000s, many people didn’t have a fast Internet connection at home, so the NRF reasoned that people were using their computers at work to purchase gifts online after the holiday weekend.

Similar to Black Friday, many retailers have extended Cyber Monday to Cyber Week. Some retailers offer the same Cyber Monday deals all week, while others introduce different deals each day. Of course, some retailers still treat Cyber Monday as a single-day sale, so we recommend snapping up deals that you want as soon as you see them in case that retailer’s sale is only one day.

Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday

While Black Friday has evolved into a dual in-store and online shopping event, Cyber Monday has remained mainly online. Black Friday ads often drop in late October and early November, giving shoppers plenty of time to browse and make a plan. On the other hand, it’s common for retailers to wait to announce Cyber Monday deals until the sale starts.

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are fantastic opportunities to save, but each sale is known for different types of discounts. Black Friday is generally a good time to score doorbuster deals on big-ticket items, including electronics and appliances. For example, select smart TVs were more than 50% off at Best Buy on Black Friday 2019. Instead of deals on specific items, Cyber Monday is known for sitewide sales and free shipping. Everything on Reebok’s website was 50% off on Cyber Monday 2019, for example. Check out our holiday sale buying guide for more insider tips to help you save on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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