Online shops set for Cyber Monday
Online retailers are braced for their busiest day of the year as consumers take part in the annual pre-Christmas shopping spree dubbed Cyber Monday.
Recent years have seen online shopping figures consistently peaking on the first Monday in December, thought to be a combination of the last payday before Christmas falling on the previous Friday and a weekend spent browsing the shops before buying online.
Visa Europe predicts £450 million will be spent on its cards alone as online transactions top 7.7 million, an increase of 16% on last year, potentially making December 2 this year the busiest online shopping day in history.
Visa Europe director of commercial development, Jeremy Nicholds, said: "UK consumers' love affair with online shopping will reach its peak on Mega Monday when we predict that we will process 7.7 million Visa transactions - a 16% rise on last year.
"Online shopping now accounts for more than 25% of spend with Visa in the UK, signifying the confidence that consumers have in the security of online payments and in the delivery of goods.
"With an average of £312,500 expected to be spent online every minute on December 2, the Christmas shopping season will certainly start with a bang."
However the proliferation of mobile technology could mean this will be the last Cyber Monday, according to analysts, with John Lewis expecting to see traffic on its website reach its annual peak this evening.
The slots between 8pm and 9pm both tonight and tomorrow night are expected to be the busiest periods by both Visa Europe and John Lewis.
Amazon.co.uk is also preparing for its busiest day of the year, with sales expected to peak at 6pm tomorrow.
On Cyber Monday last year, Amazon UK saw more than 3.5 million items ordered on the site at a rate of around 41 items per second, meaning a delivery lorry packed with orders left one of the retailer's eight UK fulfilment centres every two minutes and 10 seconds.
Xavier Garambois, vice president of EU retail at Amazon, said: "Cyber Monday has continued to grow every year with more people looking online to find and buy the perfect Christmas gift.
Online analyst Experian expects UK consumers to make 113 million visits to online retail sites tomorrow.
The busiest shopping day on the high street often falls two days before Christmas Day, with Monday December 23 and Tuesday December 24 expected to draw peak numbers of shoppers this year.
The Metropolitan Police urged internet Christmas shoppers to exercise caution while making their purchases to avoid falling victim to fraudsters.
Its new Cyber Crime Unit has put together a check-list for people buying on the web.
Detective Chief Inspector Jason Tunn of the unit said: "These are simple tips to keep safe while you shop online for your gifts for friends and family.
"The last thing anyone needs is for their details to be compromised by cyber criminals and online fraudsters - especially during the Christmas period.
"Hopefully these safeguards are easy to follow and can be implemented even by those with limited computer skills."
The tips include installing protection on a computer with anti virus or full security suite products; not clicking into links sent out by unsolicited spam or phishing emails; using a credit card instead of a debit card - credit cards may offer increased protection, and being wary of unsolicited mail asking consumers to visit sites for cheap deals on hard-to-get items. These may contain links designed to compromise a person's computer and steal their credentials.