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Shoppers, get ready for Cyber Monday

"Get your smart phones and your computers ready," said Paypal shopping specialist Claudia Lombana, who recommends savvy shoppers track products with apps. Consumers can expect deep discounts on apparel, electronics and jewelry. NBC's Thomas Roberts reports, and TODAY's Carl Quintanilla interviews Claudia Lombana.

The biggest online shopping day of the year is now in sight, and retailers plan to pull out all the stops to get your business.

We're talking Cyber Monday.

“Most are going to offer special deals literally every hour on something unique, something distinctive, or something that is a huge bargain,” said Miro Copic, a professor of marketing at San Diego State University.

According to a survey done for the National Retail Federation, a record 85 percent of online retailers will offer special promotions on Cyber Monday. About four out of 10 will offer free shipping on all purchases that day. That’s up from just 13 percent last year. Another 30 percent will offer free shipping when a certain dollar amount is reached.

“There’s no question that one of shoppers’ favorite deals is free shipping – in fact, many expect it – and retailers are responding,” said Pam Goodfellow of BIGinsight which conducted the survey.

This seventh Cyber Monday should easily set a new e-commerce record with sales expected to hit $1.5 billion. That would be a 25 percent jump from last year’s $1.2 billion.

That’s still small when compared to the revenue generated at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday – $52 billion last year – but a big deal in the world of digital commerce.

“It’s the only billion dollar online shopping day of the year,” Prof. Copic noted. “There are a few days that approach that mark, but Cyber Monday is still the king of all online sales days throughout the year.”

What do shoppers plan to buy on Monday?

A survey done by the online coupon site FatWallet.com shows that people are looking for deals on clothing (70 percent), computers and tablets (64 percent), toys (50 percent) and appliances (34 percent). They also hope to find discounts on HD televisions and smartphones.

How good are the Cyber Monday deals?

“In many cases, they’re as good as or better than Black Friday discounts,” said Dan de Grandpre, CEO of dealnews.com

It isn’t hard to find well-known brands and popular products marked down by 50 percent or more – and you don’t have to stand in line or fight the crowds to get them. A few examples:

  • Wal-Mart has a Samsung 55-inch LED Smart 3-D HDTV for just $1,498, a $1,000 savings.
  • Sears is selling a Maytag washer and dryer set for $800, a savings of $430 on the pair.
  • Kmart is slashing the price of diamond earrings by 75 percent.
  • Target promises savings of up to 70 percent on housewares, electronics, clothing and toys.

Dealnews says expect big discounts on electronics from Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Newegg.com.

Don’t wait until Monday
Now that Black Friday begins on Thursday, it should come as no surprise that Cyber Monday starts over the weekend.

The Sears and Kmart websites post their Cyber Monday deals on Sunday at 12 a.m.

Other big-name retailers, like Target.com and Amazon.com, kick off what they call their “Cyber Week” sales on Sunday. Walmart.com launches its Cyber Week savings on Saturday. 

And get this: For the first time, customers at Walmart.com will have the option to pay with cash. After the order is placed, you have 48 hours to pay at any Wal-Mart store. The order will ship to your home or the store – it’s your choice.

Some people may plan to shop from work on Cyber Monday, but a poll by pricegrabber.com, the online price comparison site, suggests that most (83 percent) will shop from home.

“People are going to shop from home before they go to work and then use their mobile devices throughout the day,” said PriceGrabber’s James Brown.

Thirty percent said they plan to shop between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. Another third indicated they would be online between 9 a.m. and noon. Brown says retailers know this, so they will post some of their “juiciest products and best deals” early in the day.

Get ready now
You should prepare for Cyber Monday now. Go to the websites of your favorite stores and brands. Follow them on Twitter, “like” them on Facebook and download their apps. By doing this, you’ll get a jump on finding out about the sales and may be offered special promotions.

You can also sign up for price alerts from sites such as pricegrabber.com, fatwallet.com and dealnews.com.

By setting up a system now, you won’t have to watch and worry all day Monday to make sure you know when the items you want go on sale. Your boss will appreciate that!

The National Retail Federation’s CyberMonday.com website is a great place to look for bargains. The first Cyber Monday deals will be announced on Sunday, Nov. 25, around mid-afternoon Eastern Time.

Be safe when shopping online
You need to be careful anytime you shop online.  It’s important to make sure a scammer doesn’t ruin your holidays. The Better Business Bureau has prepared a list of tips for navigating Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.