Analysis of the 2018 Holiday Web Traffic Spike and Lessons Learned

Chris Wraight, Director of Industrial Marketing, Akamai.

Predicting and preparing for spikes in traffic volume and resource demand is a difficult task for online retailers around the world. They must be ready at all times for expected and unexpected traffic spikes. No one wants the CEO on their doorstep asking why their website is down and losing revenue every second it goes offline.

In this article, we’ll review key web performance insights that Akamai saw globally during the 2018 holiday shopping season, including:

  • The continued rise of mobile
  • Who is the mobile customer?
  • Conversion and bounce rate

In the next article, we’ll discuss the security challenges we observed and share critical recommendations to retailers for peak traffic in 2019.

Web performance

For retailers to plan for traffic spikes, deliver optimal customer experience (CX), and convert visits into revenue, it’s essential they have a system in place that monitors and evaluates global traffic activity throughout. of the year.

Buyers are still not finding optimized CX on mobile devices, compared to desktops and tablets.

Akamai recently analyzed seven global holidays at the end of 2018 for key metrics related to the digital experience, of which web and mobile performance are an important part. This involved looking at statistics such as number of sessions, devices and mobile operating systems used, conversion rates as well as security threats.

For our data set, we assessed online retail traffic from around the world that impacted nearly 100 retail websites and mobile retail apps, providing Akamai with more than 5 billion points of contact. daily data that we have evaluated in a global way. The baseline was the daily average session traffic for periods before a holiday which varied for each holiday. Note that diwali (the Hindu Festival of Lights, celebrated every autumn in October or November) is not a single shopping day but a week-long shopping period, which is why its number was so much higher than all other festivals, which are single day events.

Global holiday session traffic

For many holidays, the majority of online shopping takes place before the actual holiday, especially if the holiday is long-running and originates from purposes other than shopping. Diwali and Christmas Day are great examples of these types of days when the holidays are spent visiting family and friends, rather than shopping.

Other “holidays”, such as singles day (1 & 2, the largest online shopping event in the world), black friday and Cyber ​​Monday have been designed entirely for shopping and promotional purposes. The day after Christmasalthough much older than any of these known holidays, is more in line with the above than Diwali or Christmas Day, and also echoes their measures.

Desktop vs Mobile Devices

The late comedian George Carlin had a famous routine featuring Al Sleet, “the hippy dippy meteorologist.” In the skit, Al’s prediction was, “Weather forecast for tonight is dark, continuing to darken overnight, with light widely scattered in the morning.”

Like Al’s predictions, the prognosis for the increased use of mobile devices in online shopping is probably the easiest prediction to make. Industry experts and vendors were comfortable making this prediction about the 2018 holiday shopping season. And, it came true! But let’s take it a step further and look at the impact that mainstream mobile device usage is having on retailers and what they should be doing to deliver optimal mobile CX in the future.

Akamai predicted in September 2018 that mobile shopping would continue to grow during the holiday season. And in the Seven Great Feasts He did, as shown in the chart below:

desktop vs mobile ecommerce traffic

Throughout the period, iOS users represented a higher percentage of mobile device users than Android users. This was an interesting statistic because, globally, Android has about four times more users than iOS, as the following graph shows.

Android vs IOS Usage Ecommerce

smartphone operating system market share

In the United States, the following graph shows that the gap between Android and iOS is much smaller, but Android users still outnumber iOS users. This could be due to the personality differences between Android and iOS users as we will see in the next section.

us subscriber share os

What about converting buyers into buyers?

Conversion rate

While information about the device and operating system visitors are using is useful to app developers designing experiences, the proverbial “rubber meets the road” metric of visitor conversion rate is key to retailers.

desktop vs mobile conversion rate

The graph above clearly shows how many more desktop users than mobile users converted to purchase. This isn’t much of a surprise, since traditionally mobile conversions are about half of desktop conversions. Statistics from Q3 2018 also support this:

conversion rate by platform

This is partly due to historical usage (smartphones have only been around for ten years), but also due to apps not being optimized for mobile users. According to the comScore Mobile Hierarchy report, some specific reasons include:

mobile commerce consumer complaints

These reasons not to convert underscore the importance of providing optimal mobile CX for visitors as mobile device usage continues to grow beyond simple search to actual purchase. And additional research confirms this point: “Only 33% of respondents said they preferred shopping on mobile smartphones, and 49% said shopping via tablet and desktop provided a more fluid”.

The actual conversion rate of Android users versus iOS users is closely related. Here we clearly see that iOS users were more likely to make a purchase, reflecting the larger number of iOS users compared to Android. But why were iOS users more likely to buy than Android users?

Android vs iOS conversion by holiday

This recent surveyprovides a socio-economic rationale for the higher iOS conversion rate:

  • iPhone owners typically have higher incomes and spend more on tech than Android users
    • Slickdeals reports, “iPhone users spend $101 each month on tech purchases, nearly double Android users”
  • iPhone owners are generally happier than Android users, survey finds, and have greater spending power
    • These (iPhone) users reported spending an average of $117 per month on clothes, compared to $62 per month for Android owners.
  • Android owners say they’re thriftier and more likely to search for deals and discounts frequently

All of this data makes higher iOS conversion rates plausible and highlights how important it is to incorporate real user monitoring (RUM) metrics into app development to ensure that, in addition to being optimized for mobile users, applications are developed for both mobile environments.

Rebound rate

Bounce rates are another important metric to measure and evaluate. Higher mobile bounce rates can be attributed to the fact that many sites are not optimized for mobile visitors, and the factors described above as to why mobile conversion rates are historically lower than desktop conversion rates come into play. Game.

bounce rate desktop vs mobile

For example, the comScore Mobile Hierarchy indicates “Unable to see product details”as the main reason why mobile shoppers weren’t converting. A eMarketer survey included three key elements:

  • “The item received does not look like the photo online (34%)”relates to both quality/accuracy of images as well as number of images (so that a buyer can get an accurate view of the product from all angles)
  • “Poor quality product images (16%)”refers to the quality of the image (pixelation) as well as its suitability for the device (large desktop images do not “work” on a smartphone)
  • “Pages load slowly (13%)”talks about the short attention span of users.

In an article on Internet Retailer, some key research was included that highlights the importance of page load time (but it’s not the only metric to consider):

  • Mobile bounce rate was the lowest (38.24%) with page load times just over 1.5 seconds during the 2017 holiday shopping season. Compare that with a bounce rate of 44.28% at a page load time of 3 seconds
  • Site visitors spend an average of just 59 seconds or less on a web page depending on the Nielsen Norman Group

The visual component of a positive mobile CX is extremely important, and in addition to static images, the increasing use of video should also be considered to help reduce bounce rates and boost conversion.

Android vs. iOS Bounce Rate

One possible explanation for the higher Android bounce rate, in addition to the problem of sites not optimized for the mobile customer experience, is that according to the research presented earlier, “Android owners say they are more frugal and inclined to to frequently search for offers and discounts” which can be reflected in the higher Android bounce rate.

In this article, we looked at the top web performance trends over the recent holiday season. In the next article, we’ll review key security measures recorded by Akamai and their implications, and provide key recommendations for retailers as they prepare for peak traffic in 2019.

Akamai provides content delivery network services to 354 of the top 1,000 online retailers in North America.


Charles J. Kaplan