Over the past several years Cyber Monday has grown to become one of the most popular shopping days of the year. Cyber Monday takes place on the Monday following the United States’ Thanksgiving holiday and is the virtual counterpart to long-established "Black Friday".

History of Cyber Monday

The tradition of Cyber Monday is kind of old when you look at things in technology time. The popular e-commerce event began in 2005. The idea was launched by a marketing team at Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation. The concept was to give Black Friday an online counterpart for the then-relatively new, but rapidly growing e-commerce. [1] , [2] Those who wanted to get good deals, but avoid the madness and craziness that typically occurs on Black Friday had a brand new option. That marketing strategy had a major impact on retail trends and forever changed how people would do their holiday shopping.

Online shopping
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The establishment of Cyber Monday has transformed the way many people approach their holiday shopping. These days millions of people do their annual shopping from the comfort of their PJs rather than fight the crowds on Black Friday.

Since its origins in 2005, Cyber Monday sales have exploded. In 2010, its sales were record setting, up 20 percent from 2009. In 2011, Cyber Monday sales soared to $1.25 billion, up 22 percent from those 2010 figures. [3]

Fast-forward to 2015 and Cyber Monday sales beat the forecast with shoppers spending a whopping $3 billion. Depending on which report you read, sales for the day were up anywhere between 12 and 16 percent over 2014. [4] , [5] , [6]

If getting up before the crack of dawn to fight the crowds on Black Friday is not too appealing, but you still want the deals, Cyber Monday is an option. That being said, if you are planning on being one of those millions of online shoppers, it's a good idea to prepare yourself to make sure you have a satisfactory experience and get what you want at the price(s) you were hoping to find.

Make a List and Check it Twice

One fab thing about e-commerce is it gives a great opportunity to do some comparison shopping and snag great deals. However, a drawback to virtual shopping is that it is easy to make impulse buys which may end up costing you more in the long run. Making your list, checking it twice and knowing exactly what kinds of deal you want to score can ensure you don't overspend and end up regretting your purchases once the credit card bill arrives. Also, start this a few weeks ahead of time because retailers often increase prices before they bring them back down for the holiday sale. That great deal may not actually be as good as it looks.

Christmas list
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To score the deals you want, do your homework before Cyber Monday. Be familiar what the regular prices are for items ahead of time. This way you have a good comparison point when you see the sale price. Additionally, many retailers and other websites leak or share what the sales will be.

Do Preliminary Research

Once you've got your list, then it's time to do your research to see which retailers are offering the products you need at the prices you want. Many retailers offer their ads before Monday arrives; it's a good idea to check these out to see what kinds of deals you can find.

Additionally, keep shipping costs in mind. Many retailers will offer free shipping, but this isn't a given. You might find yourself finding rock bottom prices, but high shipping costs offset any savings you might get. It might be worth a slightly higher price if the products come with free shipping from another vendor.

Be Vigilant and Mindful of Security Risks

Safe and secure shopping is an important factor to keep on your list. While the excitement of good deals may dominate the day, security should be kept in mind at all times. Keep in mind that any deal from lesser known or unknown retailers that looks too good to be true might just be.  ZDNet notes the holiday season is a "prime time for cyber criminals looking to take advantage of online shoppers and prey on vulnerabilities."

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Identity and financial thieves will take any opportunity they can to snag personal information to either use for themselves or sell to cybercrime rings. Always take strong precautions when shopping online and protect yourself from the phishermen too.

This doesn't mean you should avoid online shopping on Cyber Monday (or any other day), but to take some security precautions such as strong passwords and to check for secure websites ("https" not http") when plugging in your information. Additionally, use virus and malware protection and keep it up to date, and don't click on random links, which could lead to dangerous websites designed to steal your personal or financial information. Avoid using public Wi-Fi.

[ Related Reading: Are Your Passwords as Secure as You Think? ]

ZDNet also warns mobile shoppers of rogue apps. Shop only with legitimate and well-known retailers. And be sure you don’t click on ads in email because it might actually be spam and lead you to a spoofed website or other scam that looks like the real deal, but in reality is a phishing attempt.

Cyber Monday statistics indicate that this trend is not one that will likely be fading any time soon. Statistics only solidify the fact that both e-commerce and mobile commerce are here to stay and through technology, holiday shopping and technology are a great marriage for retailers.

[ Related Reading: Why Black Friday Doorbuster Deals May Not Be Worth the Effort ]

Christmas shopping
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Many people find great deals on Cyber Monday, but know your stuff before you shop.