Will Cyber Monday End With a Bang or a Whimper?

Updated: On the heels of data showing high online shopping volume on both Black Friday and Sunday, I’m wondering what’s left for so-called Cyber Monday when everyone returns to work and supposedly hops online for deals. On Friday I asked if Cyber Monday had been time-shifted, because so many people can now shop so comfortably at home via their broadband connections.

According to subsequent data, the answer appears to be “yes.” Traffic to retail sites hit a peak of 7.38 million visitors per minute late afternoon Eastern time on Sunday, according to Akamai (s akam), a few million above the Black Friday peak of of 6.69 million visitors per minute. Data today will show how the weekend and Black Friday stacked up against the Cyber Monday rush, but as of 10 a.m. ET it was hovering at just above 6 million visitors per minute. I’ll update later today, of course. Update: Cyber Monday held on with 7,909,317 visitors per minute to retail sites as measured by Akamai this afternoon around 3 pm ET.

While retailers can get people to hit the web by using Cyber Monday discounts provided online, I know I’ve already scored some sweet deals and am pretty much tapped out when it comes to gifts I can purchase online. I may not be the only one, according to a research note issued today by Colin Sebastian, VP and senior analyst of digital media and the Internet at Lazard Capital Markets:

While Cyber Monday may be the ceremonial kick-off to holiday spending, we note that some sales were likely pulled forward due to more aggressive Thanksgiving/Black Friday promotions by both pure-play and multi-channel sites.

Overall, Black Friday sales rose half a percent in brick-and-mortar stores, to $10.066 billion, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks retail sales, and were up 11 percent to $913 million online, according to comScore. That’s better than expected online, but no word on how deep discounting affected sales.  However, big winners appear to be eBay’s PayPal unit, which saw a 25 percent year-over-year increase in payment volume on Thanksgiving Day and a 20 percent rise on Black Friday. Mobile online payments through PayPal were 140 percent higher than an average Friday.

And Amazon (s amzn) seems to have taken the crown for most-visited web site on Black Friday, attracting 13.55 percent of online shoppers, according to Experian Hitwise data. However, the book seller also released data today showing that its Kindle e-Reader saw record sales in November as folks shopped for the holidays. The question for Amazon and other online retailers is: Will they continue to hit new highs or has the peak passed? Even if we’ve hit the peak, continued high traffic (and hopefully sales volume) may mean the peaks are ultimately less important, which will turn Black Friday and Cyber Monday into anachronisms online.