la-redoute

Cyber Monday is now Cyber Sunday. That’s official. Well, at least as far as Walmart is concerned. The company is going to launch its Cyber Monday deals a day early this year.

Why? Is the retail giant-of-giants regretting pulling back from Black Friday now that the momentum is really building, or is this a logical move that simply reflects reality? Maybe a bit of both.

Walmart.com CEO Fernando Madeira pointed out the logic of changing tack. “The customers have changed but Cyber Monday hasn’t changed with them,” he told Reuters. “Now everyone has [the] internet.”

The fact is that Cyber Monday is no longer the year’s biggest online shopping day. China’s Singles Day has taken that crown and in some markets like the UK, Black Friday beat it last year too. Even in the US, the gap is closing with Adobe predicting $3bn in online sales on Monday but as much as $2.7bn on Friday.

It used to be that Americans got back to their offices on the Monday after Thanksgiving and took advantage of all those new-fangled computers and the high speed wifi they found there to go shopping. Seems almost funny now.

What it means as far as Walmart is concerned is that instead of the smattering of teaser deals it offered on the same Sunday last year, there’ll be 2,000 online-only specials available from 8pm.

The power of online

The move to Cyber Sunday also reflects a wider online-driven trend that sees retailers deciding when is the best time to offer deals and knowing that their smartphone-toting customers will be ready.

Black Friday is still key, of course, as its timing is perfect for Christmas shopping. But the rise of online shopping has shifted the shopping event scenery to create alternative Black Fridays at other times. Amazon has proved that with its Amazon Prime Days earlier in the year. Alibaba has proved it with Singles Day on November 11.

The onward march of online has also changed Black Friday itself and we’re seeing proof of that this year with a whole load of tweaks to usual retailer behaviour over Black Friday/Cyber Monday, of which Walmart’s move is the highest-profile.

Why is the change happening so fast in a world where e-sales are still the smallest percentage of total sales? Currently, more than 92% of total US retail sales still happen in physical stores and in Britain, the figure is still around 90%. But for both countries, online is a disproportionately large force in special shopping events like Black Friday. In the UK, for instance, over a third of the near-£2bn likely to be spent on the day will be online.

And that gives retailers the chance to extend the event on their websites as they’re not bound by shoppers’ abilities to get to stores. In fact, a lot of retailers launched Black Friday early this year with plenty of deals available last week and this week even more.

In France, where physical retail is still reeling from the Paris attacks, online is also changing the landscape and Black Friday is morphing too. La Redoute, which said the Friday-through-Sunday period was its second biggest shopping weekend in 2014 (as pictured), has renamed it Le Grand Weekend. But despite the use of the word “weekend”, its deals start today and end next Monday.

So whatever happens on Black Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and Cyber Saturday, Sunday or Monday, one thing we know is that shopping will never be the same again.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday