Shoppers: On your mark. Get set. Click!
Yes, retailers may have floored you with their Friday morning door-busters. And you probably heard about a stampede or two on the news over the weekend. But this day belongs to the online merchants. In a phenomenon that is now being called Cyber Monday, holiday gift hunting will take the Internet by storm as folks return to work and take advantage of their employer's online connectivity to load up virtual carts with online deals.
One can argue that the Internet-based storefronts have already felt the rush. I can personally vouch that the Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) and Circuit City (NYSE: CC ) websites were down quite a bit -- no doubt because of an overload of traffic -- over the weekend.
Even though Forrester Research estimates that just 7.7% of all retail shopping is being done online, that number continues to grow as Web-based shops grow faster than their physical counterparts. The National Retail Federation is expecting a 6% spike in seasonal shopping this year, but online transactions are expected to grow four times faster than that.
That's why it's not just Stock Advisor recommendation Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) kicking up a worthy fuss online these days. Target (NYSE: TGT ) may have gotten clever by providing shoppers with themed wake-up calls on Friday morning, but it was also wooing home-based buyers with two days of free shipping specials. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) may have been a mob scene when its doors cracked open on Friday, but many of those same specials that had shoppers rushing in could have been purchased without the long lines and parking lot hassles at its Walmart.com site.
The offline retailers are learning, and now they will have to adapt to Cyber Monday. Because holiday shoppers need to make sure that they place their online orders with plenty of time for their items to arrive, the online shopping season peaks earlier than the traditional mall-based run does. That's why today is huge. Be on the lookout for special deals that pander to the online shopper today, in the same way that those Thursday paper ad circulars catered to the Friday morning shoppers.
And, hey, I saw the footage of that Wal-Mart melee over the weekend. Take it easy out there, people, even if you can't trample over anyone in cyberspace.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been shopping online over the holidays for about as long as Amazon.com has been in business. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.