Black Friday vs Cyber Monday: what's the difference?

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When does Cyber Monday start, and when do the Black Friday deals end? It's surprisingly complicated, but rest assured: there will be no gap in cheap deals between the two shopping holidays.

Black Friday "ended" on Friday, November 27, and Cyber Monday "begins" on Monday, November 30, but different retailers are either beginning their Cyber Monday deals early or extending their current deals into a Black Friday weekend. It's all part of retailers' 2020 strategy to spread out their deals across all of November.

Black Friday deals were (and still are) a great way to score major discounts on expensive tech like TVs, laptops, headphones, speakers, and smartphones. Early Cyber Monday deals, based on what we've seen so far, are more centered on smaller appliances like vacuums, stand mixers, espresso machines, Fitbits and clothing - but you'll still find deals for more expensive fare like laptops, Chromebooks, 4K TVs and treadmills.

So, what's the difference between the two sales events – and most importantly, on which day will you find the best deals?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: what’s it all about?

Let’s start with Black Friday; traditionally, Black Friday is the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving when retailers begin the holiday shopping season. 

It’s based around retailers making such impressive discounts that bargain-crazed customers will try to break the doors down before the shop opens – although recent years have seen Black Friday morph into an online shopping phenomenon.

Online shopping is going to be even more important this year, as the pandemic means social distancing measures will be enforced in many stores, and buyers will be more reluctant to shop in person.

When are Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020?

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Traditionally, Black Friday is the first Friday immediately after Thanksgiving in the US, when retailers begin the holiday shopping season.

This means that Black Friday 2020 will officially start on November 27 – though the deals typically begin flooding in during the preceding week. 

Cyber Monday is the first Monday following Black Friday, and this year falls on November 30.

The actual date shifts every year, with this year's Black Friday date falling on November 27. Despite this, in 2020 the biggest retailers began releasing BF deals as soon as the first week in November, and kept them up all the way up to the main event. And some are still continuing "Black Friday" into Saturday and Sunday.

Cyber Monday always falls on the Monday immediately after Thanksgiving, which means it will take place on November 30. 

As you've probably guessed from the name, Cyber Monday is a purely online affair, The term was coined by Ellen Davis and Scott Silverman of the US National Retail Federation and, and it was a deliberate move to promote online shopping back in 2005 when the Internet was in its infancy.

It was intended to help smaller retailers compete with the big names who were harping on about Black Friday, although those big names promptly jumped on the Cyber Monday bandwagon, too.

Because of this, it can be hard to discern an actual difference between the two dates; after all, with deals happening all through November, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can feel like one homogenized monster sales event.

That's not completely untrue, either – however, there are a few key differences between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are useful to know as you scope out the deals that are still available compared against what is to come.

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What's the difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Aside from the dates, the traditional difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is that Black Friday deals can be found online and in physical stores, whereas Cyber Monday is purely dedicated to online discounts. 

This year, with most people staying home for safety, retailers made virtually all of their best deals available online. That, combined with the month-long deal schedule, makes the difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday more confusing than ever.

That's reflected in the fact that different retailers are ending Black Friday and starting Cyber Monday on different days. Amazon's Cyber Monday sale began Saturday, November 28 at 12:01am; Best Buy's Cyber Monday begins on Sunday, November 29, but its Cyber Week just began this morning. Walmart's Cyber Monday begins on Monday, which means its Black Friday deals are still available now. It's confusing!

Much of this comes down to branding, as both sales events will have plenty of fantastic tech deals, whether you’re looking for a new laptop or a pair of swish noise-cancelling headphones

The difference is that some tech will sell so well during Black Friday that it sells out before Cyber Monday, leaving you out of luck; or, some tech will sell at a decent discount during Black Friday only for retailers to slash the price down even further for Cyber Monday, hoping to clear out the rest of their stock.

Cyber Monday also typically sees discounts on smaller items that might get ignored during Black Friday. For example, if you're more interested in fashion than tech, some online retailers are expected to offer site wide discounts on Cyber Monday, meaning it's well worth waiting. 

Cyber Monday is also typically a good time to find deals on small appliances and white goods, so if you're looking for a new microwave, check when your favorite household store begins its Cyber Monday sale.

If you see a fantastic Black Friday deal that ticks all your boxes, we’d recommend going for it – products can sell out in a matter of minutes, and you can usually return the item if you see a better deal on Cyber Monday.

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Black Friday deals versus Cyber Monday deals

Based on the initial wave of Cyber Monday and Cyber Week deals we've seen at Amazon and Best Buy, you can expect deals on the same type of products we saw during Black Friday, but on different brands and models than before.

For instance, Amazon sold an iRobot vacuum for Black Friday and is now selling Coredy and ILIFE robot vacuums as part of its new Cyber Monday deals. It sold Star Wars LEGOs for Black Friday, and is now selling Star Wars-themed toys for its Cyber Monday deal of the day.

Similarly, Best Buy has obviously been discounting 4K TVs, gaming laptops and Chromebooks but has dropped prices on new versions of these. You may have bought a 50-inch TCL 4K during Black Friday for $229, but the retailer is now selling a 55-inch TCL 4K for $199. And instead of BeatsX and Beats Solo Pro headphones, you'll find Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro headphones on sale instead.

Unless you are attached to a very specific product, you'll likely find a deal on any tech you need whether you shop during extended Black Friday sales or early Cyber Monday deals.

While we can’t predict exactly which products will be discounted when Cyber Monday fully arrives, we can make a few educated guesses based on last year’s Cyber Monday deals. 

Cyber Monday is usually a great time to buy home appliances and last year was no exception, with great deals on coffee machines, air fryers, and pressure cookers on both sides of the pond – you can expect more of the same this year, too.

TVs are also a good bet on Cyber Monday, with last year seeing in fantastic deals on 4K TVs at Walmart and Best Buy in the US, John Lewis, Argos, and Currys in the UK, and on Amazon worldwide.

Amazon is usually a good place to find Cyber Monday deals – and while we're expecting to see some great discounts this year, you may find that stock is in lower supply than previous years. That's because Amazon Prime Day 2020 was much later this year, falling in mid-October. 

Saying that, Prime Day gave us a good indication of the kind of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals we can expect this year, with huge discounts on everything from soundbars to laptops.

How can I prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020?

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail; if you want to make the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020, it’s important to have an idea of what you want to buy, and where you want to buy it from. 

The best way to do this is to make yourself a wishlist; it doesn't have to be retailer-specific – just have an idea of what you're looking to buy during this last week of deals. For example, do you need a new soundbar to complement your entertainment system? Are you looking for a budget-friendly work laptop?

Most of the big retailers will publish their newest deals at midnight every day, especially on Cyber Monday itself, while certain retailers like Amazon have lightning deals pages where you can wait for certain products will go on sale with your finger poised over the "Add to Cart" button.

Make a list of every type of device you want, and be prepared to buy a deal fast without waiting for a hypothetical better price down the line. It may sell out while you're waiting to save those few extra bucks - especially true the further we move from Black Friday into Cyber Monday and beyond.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.