Cyber Monday set to shatter sales records
Cyber Monday activity hit a historical peak Monday morning, and early data hints at a record-breaking Cyber Monday following a lackluster Black Friday weekend.
The Black Friday creep that sent shoppers out in an early pursuit for deals pinched sales over the holiday weekend, but the same story doesn't appear to be repeating itself for Cyber Monday.
Despite retailers' pushing online promotions earlier and more aggressively this year, Akamai Technologies, which tracks traffic to more than 620 retail websites, said North American page views per minute had topped 10 million Monday morning, hitting a historical peak and topping last year's Cyber Monday high of about 8.5 million.
The firm expected the number to climb even higher as the day's traffic typically peaks in the evening, after people get home from work. Last year's peak was reached at 8 p.m., said Lorenz Jakober, Akamai's senior product marketing manager.
"We're already amazed by the traffic levels we're currently seeing," he said.
The traffic increases follow a 23 percent jump in page views per minute on Black Friday and a similar increase Thanksgiving Day. They also offer a bright spot for retailers after a disappointing Black Friday weekend, when the National Retail Federation reported that heavy promotions, tighter consumer spending and purchases made earlier in the month led to a decline of nearly 3 percent.
But the growth of online sales continues to overshadow physical stores.
Analytics firm comScore said e-commerce sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday rose about 17 percent, and it expects the trend to continue on Cyber Monday. It estimates that sales will increase about 20 percent, to hit $2 billion for the first time. What's more, FedEx said that Cyber Monday will be the busiest shipping day ever in its 40-year history.
While earlier promotions and a heavy increase in online discounts have caused some to question the importance of Cyber Monday moving forward, comScore vice president of marketing and analytics Andrew Lipsman said the online shift and increased promotions have actually had an inverse effect.
"These days continue to increase in importance because of how many retailers participate and how many consumers want to engage," he said.
Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky said that while he isn't a fan of Cyber Monday's disorganized discounts, he sees the appeal for shoppers who are interested in bargains but don't have the mentality required for extreme shopping.
(Read more: Black Friday more hype than profit)
"I think in a sense Cyber Monday is popular because there's a whole contingent of folks who say, 'I'm not dealing with the stores on Black Friday,' " he said. "[If consumers] decide to shop today, it's not because they're being offered the lowest prices of the year."
—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson. Follow her on Twitter