With consumers already shopping more online, Cyber Monday is expected to bring in record e-commerce sales as retailers' digital operations face their first major test of the season.
Retailers recorded $7.9 billion in sales on Monday — a 19 percent increase from last year — according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions at most of the top U.S. online retailers.
But online promotions can be fraught if websites can't keep up with increased traffic. On Friday, Walmart, Kohl's and Lowe's experienced website meltdowns as consumers flocked to their sites for deals.
Minneapolis-based Target is pouring $7 billion into modernizing its operations and improving online shopping. It has promoted "cyber week" deals and joined Amazon and Macy's in starting its discounting on Sunday.
Richfield-based Best Buy has spent years making its website easier to navigate, and has seen online revenue leap in recent years as the line between store visits and online shopping continues to blur.
Best Buy is once again pairing its Cyber Monday sales with a fundraising effort for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The retailer and its customers have raised $60 million since 2013, according to St. Jude.
A survey of Twin Cities consumers by global consultant Deloitte found that metro-area shoppers expected to spend more of their holiday budget online this year than in stores, consistent with national trends. Slightly more said they planned to shop on Cyber Monday than the Friday after Thanksgiving.
"Value and deals still tend to drive consumer behavior as the main motivator," said Matt Marsh, a Deloitte retail adviser based in Minneapolis. "With Cyber Monday, you get the deals, plus you get the ease: I can do a lot of shopping quickly and don't have to stand in lines."
Those of a certain age will recall the origins of Cyber Monday as a day when people came back to work after the holiday weekend and took advantage of their employers' fast internet connections to do some shopping.
These days, the Monday online promotions cap a five-day retailing marathon that began on Thanksgiving. In all, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that 164 million people will have shopped online and in stores during that long holiday stretch, which represents some of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Last year, an average day during the holiday season produced about $1.1 billion in online sales volume, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse data, which measures total U.S. retail sales across all payment types.
The NRF and other retail analysts predict retail sales to rise 4 to 5 percent over last year, the biggest bump since the end of the recession.
More than 80 percent of major retailers expect to see more sales this Cyber Monday than last, said brand loyalty consultant Robert Passikoff of Brand Keys.
In Passikoff's ranking of companies that will benefit the most from greater traffic on Monday, Amazon and Walmart are ranked at the top, with Best Buy and Target following at third and fourth.
Amazon is projected to capture nearly half of all online spending this year, making it the biggest beneficiary of online spending growth, according to the digital marketing research firm eMarketer. That's a 30 percent increase from 2017.
Consumer electronics, specialty apparel and jewelry are typically bigger sellers on Cyber Monday. This year, toys are among the most heavily promoted items as retailers try to win new business from the Toys 'R' Us bankruptcy.