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  • Akamai 2014 European

    Online Holiday Shopping

    Trends & Traffic Report

    AKAMAI WHITE PAPER

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 2

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    OVERVIEW 3

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3

    TRENDS THROUGHOUT EUROPE 4

    European NUI Data 4

    Is mCommerce driving holiday sales? 5

    BELGIUM AND THE NETHERLANDS 7

    FRANCE 8

    GERMANY 9

    ITALY 10

    NORDICS 11

    SPAIN 12

    UNITED KINGDOM AND IRELAND 13

    CONCLUSIONS AND BEST PRACTICES 15

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 3

    Overview

    This report provides an overview of eCommerce shopping activity throughout Europe, and in specific

    regions and countries within Europe, during the 2014 holiday shopping season. This shopping

    season spans from early November 2014 to mid-January 2015, and is inclusive of major holidays

    and eCommerce days, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Sinterklaas, Boxing Day and the

    popular “winter sales” in January.

    Report data by geography is gathered using Akamai’s Retail Net Usage Index (NUI), which monitors Akamai’s retail customers’ real-time website traffic in page views per minute (V/PM), and the company’s Real User Monitoring (RUM), which reports real data about actual web traffic based on device type and operating system. Akamai’s retail customers represent the top 20 global eCommerce sites and many European Internet retailers. For the purposes of this report, Akamai focuses only on European e-retailers. These findings do not include major retailers from other countries that serve European consumers.

    Executive Summary

    This report analyses traffic trends in seven different regions throughout Europe, as well as a snapshot of all of Europe. Below are some noteworthy highlights that briefly summarize the 2014 holiday shopping trends:

    • Mobile activity is strong, but wanes on most key shopping days. While Europeans, as a whole, have embraced mCommerce with vigor, data shows a decline in mobile activity on the highest trafficked shopping days (as compared to baseline activity in October)

    • Boxing Day in the United Kingdom and Ireland recorded the highest average mobile activity of 61%. However, Black Friday, which saw 66% more website traffic than Boxing Day, logged only 42% mobile traffic (which is significantly lower than the region’s 57% mobile baseline)

    • iPads account for a significant portion of traffic. More than 20% of all of Europe’s holiday traffic came from iPads

    • Consumers are shopping earlier and not waiting for traditional deal days. Many regions experienced early browsing on Nov. 23, the Sunday prior to Black Friday. This likely represents a reaction to retailers’ new and early attempts at leveraging the popularity of Black Friday sales

    • Black Friday and Cyber Monday are here to stay. The days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become increasingly popular throughout Europe, and often account for peak traffic and the most sustained traffic days. Throughout all of Europe, daily average traffic on Black Friday grew by 77% from 2013 to 2014

    • Some peaks were really, really high. Most regions experienced traffic peaks of close to four times that of their respective baseline measurements from the month of October. Some significant exceptions include:

    » Nordics: Thursday, Nov. 6 peaked at 207,563 V/PM – more than 16 times the baseline

    » Spain: Tuesday, Jan. 6 peaked at 587,580 V/PM – 13.5 times the baseline

    • Shoppers are browsing at night. A majority of peak traffic activity occurs between the hours of 9 and 11 p.m. CET

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 4

    2,000,000

    1,500,000

    1,000,000

    500,000

    0Nov. 7 Nov. 22 Dec. 7 Dec. 22 Jan. 6

    Date

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

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    2014/2015 Daily Peak

    2014/2015 Daily Average

    2014/2015 Baseline

    2013 Baseline

    2013 Average

    Trends throughout Europe

    There’s no question that European shoppers have quickly fallen in love with the United States’ popular shopping weekend from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. In fact, IBM reports that the United Kingdom’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales were up year-over-year, from 2013 to 2014, by an astounding 91.6% and 22.6%, respectively. Mobile sales, the company says, were up by more than 29%.

    Akamai’s NUI data substantiates that impressive growth. In the month of October, Akamai’s European retail customers experienced an average of 608,922 page views per minute (V/PM). On Black Friday in 2014, traffic peaked at three times that “baseline” number, at 1.8 million V/PM. In fact, daily average page views per minute on Black Friday in 2014 grew by 77% from that same day in 2013.

    European NUI Data

    While Europeans certainly took advantage of the deals and discounts offered over the Black Friday weekend, they didn’t wait for these heightened shopping days to start their winter shopping. Traffic peaks in early November are easily 75% higher than the recorded baseline traffic and never dip below 1 million V/PM.

    In November, each four-day stretch from Friday to Monday over the weekends preceding to Black Friday average peaks of about 1.3 million V/PM. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, European peak traffic averaged 1.6 million V/PM. European online retailers saw the most sustained traffic on Black Friday, when average page views per minute jumped from an October baseline of just over 600,000 V/PM to more than a million.

    As shipping windows narrowed leading up to the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays, traffic fell to a peak average of 949,000 V/PM from Dec. 19 to 22, likely because most shoppers were not able to receive orders in time for gift giving. However, traffic climbed again quickly after the holidays, leading to a peak of 1.6 million V/PM on Jan. 6, just in time for the winter sales.

    In fact, daily average page views per minute on Black Friday in 2014 grew by 77% from that same day in 2013.

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 5

    80%

    70%

    60%

    50%

    40%

    30%

    20%

    10%

    0%

    Belgium &The Netherlands

    France Germany Italy Nordics Spain UKI

    Region

    Perc

    enta

    ge

    of

    Traf

    fic

    Desktop

    Mobile

    Desktop vs. Mobile Comparison

    Is mCommerce driving holiday sales?

    Baseline mobile activity throughout Europe, as measured throughout the month of October, represents an average of 47% of all eCommerce traffic. That’s an impressive statistic, especially as it compares to the United States, which averaged 37% mobile traffic during the busy holiday shopping season.

    In fact, in taking a closer look at the mobile vs. desktop and device use comparisons (below) for the many regions and countries examined in this report, it’s interesting to see that:

    • The UK and Ireland region is the only area where mobile and desktop device usage is nearly equal, but Spain is closing the gap quickly

    • Spain has the highest Android traffic (22%)

    • Belgium and The Netherlands (20%), Nordics (21%), and UK and Ireland (20%) have highest iPad usage

    • The UK and Ireland have the highest iPhone traffic (16%), which is 7% higher than the next country, France

    • Nordics have the highest Mac traffic (18%)

    • Italy has the highest Windows use (57%); the UK and Ireland have the lowest (42%)

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 6

    While mCommerce is particularly popular in some areas of Europe, it’s difficult to say that mobile commerce drove sales this past holiday season. Instead, European shoppers actually used mobile devices less frequently during the holidays as compared to the baseline measurement from October. During the winter months, Europeans turned to mobile devices two percentage points less (45%), meaning that they opted to settle down in front of larger screens to conduct more focused holiday shopping. This decrease in mobile reliance can be seen in many of the regional analyses as well.

    80%

    70%

    60%

    50%

    40%

    30%

    20%

    10%

    0%Belgium &

    The NetherlandsFrance Germany Italy Nordics Spain UKI

    Region

    Perc

    enta

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    of

    Traf

    fic

    Device Type Traffic Comparison

    Windows

    Mac

    iPhone

    iPad

    Android

    European shoppers actually used mobile devices less frequently during the holidays as compared to the baseline measurement in October.

    53%

    47%*

    55%

    45%*

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficBaseline Period (October), Europe

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficHoliday Period (Nov. 23 to Jan. 12), Europe

    Desktop

    Mobile

    Europeans’ affinity for iPads and Android devices is another interesting trend. Overall, 20% of all traffic to European retailers came from iPads and 14% came from Android devices. These numbers become even more impressive in certain countries, both as baseline and holiday averages.

    * UKI and Spain have higher traffic volumes. Their higher counts have a stronger effect on the overall European percentage.

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 7

    200,000

    150,000

    100,000

    50,000

    0Nov. 7 Nov. 22 Dec. 7 Dec. 22 Jan. 6

    Date

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

    e

    Daily Peak TOTAL

    Daily Average TOTAL

    Baseline

    Belgium and The Netherlands

    Belgium and The Netherlands are an example of an area that experienced both early traffic peaks in November and a drop in mobile usage over the holiday season.

    The highest peak traffic in the region occurred on Thursday, Nov. 6, with an impressive 182,000 V/PM – more than four times the baseline – at 10 a.m. CET. This peak comes just less than one month away from the celebrated Sinterklaas holiday on Dec. 5 in the Netherlands and Dec. 6 in Belgium.

    The region experiences several other interesting peaks: 148,317 V/PM on Nov. 23; 132,546 V/PM on Black Friday (Nov. 28); and a surprising 141,050 V/PM, well after the winter sales, on Jan. 10. In fact, this Jan. 10 date also marked the most sustained shopping traffic of the holiday season, with an average of 79,568 V/PM, which is nearly twice the region’s typical activity, as measured by the baseline.

    According to mobile traffic data on the peak trafficked day, Nov. 6, 34% of traffic came from mobile devices, whereas 66% came from desktops. During the off-season, mobile traffic is said to account for 37% of all ecommerce activity in Belgium and The Netherlands, which suggests a 3% point decrease in mobile use during the shopping season. Interestingly, iPads were used most frequently at 21% after Windows devices, which accounted for 47% of traffic.

    Belgium and The Netherlands NUI Data

    34%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficNov. 6, Belgium & The Netherlands

    Desktop

    Mobile66%47%

    Device TypeNov. 6, Belgium & The Netherlands

    18%

    21%

    9%

    5%

    Windows

    Mac

    iPhone

    iPad

    Android

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 8

    400,000

    300,000

    200,000

    100,000

    0Nov. 27 Dec. 7 Dec. 17 Dec. 27 Jan. 6

    Date

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

    e

    Daily Peak TOTAL

    Daily Average TOTAL

    Baseline

    France

    In France and the French part of Switzerland, the highest peak traffic day was Saturday, Nov. 29 (the day after Black Friday) with 345,975 V/PM. This is nearly four times the average baseline traffic of 92,791 V/PM measured in October. On this day, 35% of traffic came from mobile devices, which is two percentage points above the 33% mobile traffic baseline.

    Desktop

    Mobile65%

    35%

    69%

    31%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficNov. 29, France

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficWinter Sales (Jan. 7), France

    On the next day, the Sunday following Black Friday, the region experienced its second-highest peak traffic at 307,345 V/PM. Other interesting highs include the Sunday before Black Friday, Nov. 23, which saw an early uptick of 220,328 V/PM, and Sunday, Jan. 4, with a high of 246,495 V/PM. Winter sales on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 garnered peaks of 187,842 and 257,654 V/PM, respectively. Jan. 7 also saw the highest sustained traffic with a daily average of 143,945 V/PM. As is the case in some other regions, mobile activity in France actually took a downturn on Jan. 7, reducing by two percentage points from the baseline measurement, suggesting that serious shoppers looked to larger screens to make purchases.

    France NUI Data

    Interestingly, average page views per minute dropped below the typical baseline of 92,790 V/PM for a lengthy stretch between Dec. 18 and Jan. 1. On Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), average page views per minute sunk as low as 50,419. This time in December was reported as a school holiday in France, when families were likely spending time together or shopping in stores.

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 9

    300,000

    230,000

    160,000

    90,000

    20,000Nov. 27 Dec. 7 Dec. 17 Dec. 27 Jan. 6

    Date

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

    e

    Daily Peak TOTAL

    Daily Average TOTAL

    Baseline

    Germany

    German consumers appeared to conduct their holiday shopping earlier than most regions, with markedly more activity in late November and early December. Also, whereas many German shops are closed on Sundays, there were large spikes in site traffic on those days throughout the holiday season.

    Germany NUI Data

    Germany saw its second highest traffic and most sustained average traffic on Cyber Monday. Online browsing activity peaked on Dec. 1 at 292,397 V/PM at 9 p.m. CET and averaged 139,760 V/PM for the day. The highest peak of the season came again on Sunday, Nov. 23, at 293,217 V/PM.

    Desktop

    Mobile73%

    27%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficCyber Monday (Dec. 1), Germany

    Germany reported some of the lowest mobile activity – both for its baseline (27%) and for Cyber Monday (26%) – across all the regions that were tracked. Again, there was a small decline in the amount of mobile activity on this shopping day, which is known for its eCommerce activity.

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 10

    Italy

    As is the case in most of the European countries, Italy saw its highest peak traffic well before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. The peak, however, did not occur on Nov. 23 like many other regions. Rather, it happened inexplicably on Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 11 a.m. CET, reaching a high of 89,330 V/PM.

    Italy NUI Data

    90,000

    70,000

    50,000

    30,000

    10,000

    Nov. 27 Dec. 7 Dec. 17 Dec. 27 Jan. 6

    Date

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

    e

    Daily Peak TOTAL

    Daily Average TOTAL

    Baseline

    Italians also appeared to enjoy the deals and sales offered on Cyber Monday in 2014. The fourth-highest peak of the season occurred on Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. CET with 61,895 V/PM. Interestingly, Cyber Monday also had the highest overall daily average traffic, with 34,125 V/PM. Other high-peak traffic days include Dec. 8, a local holiday, and Dec. 17. Conversely, average daily traffic dropped below baseline levels from Dec. 18 until Jan. 2, and eCommerce activity came to a near standstill on Christmas Eve and Christmas day with average daily traffic of about 14,000 V/PM each day. The winter sales days of Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 were also fairly unremarkable, with traffic hitting a peak of 49,231 V/PM on Jan. 7.

    Though the country saw its traffic peak on Nov. 19, it experienced a drop in mobile use of three percentage points to 32%, as compared to the baseline data. Cyber Monday mobile traffic saw a similar trend – but with a larger dip in mobile device use. Dec. 1 boasted the most sustained traffic with a daily average of 34,125 V/PM, but mobile use dropped to only 26% (tying Germany for the lowest amount of mobile traffic that day), as opposed to the country’s baseline of 35%.

    65%

    35%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficOctober Baseline, Italy

    68%

    32%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficNov. 19, Italy

    74%

    26%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficCyber Monday (Dec. 1), Italy

    Desktop

    Mobile

    The winter sales days of Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 were also fairly unremarkable, with traffic hitting a peak of 49,231 V/PM on Jan. 7.

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 11

    Nordics

    The Nordics region, which consists of Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, experienced a fairly even-keeled holiday season, with few highly trafficked days and small upticks on popular shopping days. The only exception was the region’s inexplicable peak on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 8 a.m. CET, when numbers hit a high of 207,563 V/PM – more than 16 times the typical baseline for the region, which is 12,436 V/PM.

    Nordics NUI Data

    210,000

    160,000

    110,000

    60,000

    10,000

    Nov. 7 Nov. 22 Dec. 7 Dec. 22 Jan. 6

    Datum

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

    e Daily Peak TOTAL

    Daily Average TOTAL

    Baseline

    Besides the noteworthy spike in activity on Nov. 6, an early peak of 60,914 on Nov. 10 was indicative of earlier-than-usual shopping activity in the Nordics. The next highest peak in this region was on Cyber Monday at 51,055 V/PM and Black Friday at 49,894 V/PM. After the spike on Nov. 6, Black Friday had the most sustained traffic of the season throughout the day with an average of 24,441 V/PM, which was nearly twice the region’s baseline. Cyber Monday followed with yet another busy day of shopping, averaging 24,279 V/PM. The days leading up to Christmas were particularly quiet shopping days, while the region saw modest growth in activity around the winter sales on Jan. 6 and 7. The Nordics region also promotes winter sales starting on Dec. 26, but traffic only peaked at 40,166 V/PM that day.

    The Nordics region boasts the third-highest baseline of mobile traffic at 40% with a quarter of all traffic coming from iPad devices. It also has the least amount of traffic (36%) stemming from Windows devices. While shoppers in this region clearly turn to mobile devices quite frequently, there was a decline in mobile use (37%) on the region’s peak shopping day, Nov. 6, and an even larger drop, to 27%, on Cyber Monday. Again, this signifies that while European shoppers typically turn to mCommerce, they opt for desktop shopping experiences on key browsing days.

    The Nordics region boasts the third-highest baseline of mobile traffic at 40% with a quarter of all traffic coming from iPad devices.

    63%

    37%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficNov. 6, Nordics

    73%

    27%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficCyber Monday (Dec. 1), Nordics

    39%

    Device TypeNov. 6, Nordics

    24%

    23%

    7%

    7%

    Desktop

    Mobile

    Windows

    Mac

    iPhone

    iPad

    Android

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 12

    Spain

    The start of winter sales proved significant for shoppers in the Spanish region, which includes both Spain and Portugal. In fact, the peak traffic on Jan. 6 hit an impressive high of 587,580 V/PM at 11 p.m. CET, which is twice as large as the next highest peak in that region, which occurred on Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving Day in the United States).

    Spain NUI Data

    600,000

    450,000

    300,000

    150,000

    0Nov. 27 Dec. 7 Dec. 17 Dec. 27 Jan. 6

    Date

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

    e

    Daily Peak TOTAL

    Daily Average TOTAL

    Baseline

    Nov. 27 experienced a peak of 283,060 V/PM at midnight CET and that lively shopping activity flowed into the next day, Black Friday, with 243,485 V/PM. Cyber Monday was less impressive, but still busy, with 206,185 V/PM. As is the case in many of the European countries and regions, site traffic slows to a crawl in the days just before the Christmas holiday.

    Certainly the most impactful shopping days of the season in Spain were on Jan. 6 and 7. In fact, as shoppers braced for the winter sales, online activity drops to 94,647 V/PM on Jan. 5, only to jump by more than six times the following day, when the region hits its peak traffic. Jan. 7 experiences the most sustained traffic of the season, with an average of 159,145 V/PM. This is more than four times the region’s baseline traffic of 42,962 V/PM.

    Likely most noteworthy, however, is the fact that more than half of the region’s shoppers were on mobile devices on Jan. 6. While baseline mobile traffic rests at an impressive 42% in Spain, that number climbed to 55% on the first day of the winter sales. Twenty-six percent of those shoppers were on Android devices and 21% were on iPads. Though mobile traffic on Jan. 7 maintained at just one percentage point above baseline (43%), it decreased to 40% on Black Friday.

    As shoppers braced for the winter sales, online activity drops to 94,647 V/PM on Jan. 5, only to jump by more than six times the following day

    55%

    Desktop vs. Mobile TrafficJan. 6, Spain

    45%39%

    Device TypeJan. 6, Spain

    8%6%

    26%

    21%

    Desktop

    Mobile

    Windows

    Mac

    iPhone

    iPad

    Android

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 13

    900,000

    700,000

    500,000

    300,000

    100,000Nov. 27 Dec. 7 Dec. 17 Dec. 27 Jan. 6

    Date

    On

    line

    Traf

    fic

    Vo

    lum

    e

    Daily Peak TOTAL

    Daily Average TOTAL

    Baseline

    United Kingdom and Ireland

    In this region, Boxing Day (Dec. 26) has traditionally been the biggest online shopping day of the year. While Boxing Day traffic was dwarfed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday traffic this year, the region experienced the most mobile activity on Boxing Day at 61% (four percentage points above the impressive baseline of 57%). This was the highest mobile activity in all of Europe, throughout the winter season.

    On Black Friday (Nov. 28) shoppers in the UK and Ireland logged a peak of 890,620 V/PM at 10 a.m. CET, and a high daily average of 517,017 V/PM. This daily average doubled the October baseline of 217,820 V/PM.

    United Kingdom and Ireland NUI Data

    The next highest traffic peaks occurred on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 771,051 V/PM, Sunday, Nov. 30 at 712,097 V/PM and Cyber Monday, Dec. 1, at 692,328 V/PM at 9 p.m. CET. Boxing Day, followed with a peak of 535,496 V/PM at 10 p.m. CET.

    This region has the highest mobile baseline of all the European regions at 57%. In particular, iPads and iPhones represent 25% and 17% of the traffic, respectively. While the weekend of Black Friday boasted the most traffic across this region, mobile use actually declined to only 42% on Black Friday and 48% on Cyber Monday. Conversely, mobile traffic climbed to a high of 61% on Boxing Day, which wasn’t as highly trafficked overall.

    Mobile use actually declined to only 42% on Black Friday and 48% on Cyber Monday.

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 14

    Date - Time (GMT)

    Perc

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    100%

    90%

    80%

    70%

    60%

    50%

    40%

    30%

    20%

    10%

    0%

    Dec. 1

    Dec. 1 0

    3:00

    Dec. 1 0

    6:00

    Dec. 1 0

    9:00

    Dec. 1 1

    2:00

    Dec. 1 1

    5:00

    Dec. 1 1

    8:00

    Dec. 1 2

    1:00

    Device Type ProfileCyber Monday (Dec. 1), UKI

    Windows

    Mac

    iPhone

    iPad

    Android

    Date - Time (GMT)

    Perc

    enta

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    of

    Traf

    fic

    100%

    90%

    80%

    70%

    60%

    50%

    40%

    30%

    20%

    10%

    0%

    Nov. 28

    Nov. 28

    03:00

    Nov. 28

    06:00

    Nov. 28

    09:00

    Nov. 28

    12:00

    Nov. 28

    15:00

    Nov. 28

    18:00

    Nov. 28

    21:00

    Device Type ProfileBlack Friday (Nov. 28), UKI

    Windows

    Mac

    iPhone

    iPad

    Android

    Date - Time (GMT)

    Perc

    enta

    ge

    of

    Traf

    fic

    100%

    90%

    80%

    70%

    60%

    50%

    40%

    30%

    20%

    10%

    0%

    Dec. 26

    Dec. 26

    03:00

    Dec. 26

    06:00

    Dec. 26

    09:00

    Dec. 26

    12:00

    Dec. 26

    15:00

    Dec. 26

    18:00

    Dec. 26

    21:00

    Device Type ProfileBoxing Day (Dec. 26), UKI

    Windows

    Mac

    iPhone

    iPad

    Android

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 15

    Conclusions and Best Practices

    Three things become apparent based on this year’s holiday data: Consumers aren’t waiting for big sale days to begin their winter shopping, eCommerce traffic is growing rapidly, and mobile devices are used widely, but typically with less frequency on major shopping days.

    This means that retailers have to plan for the unexpected, while expecting a continued uptick in web traffic. It necessitates partner collaboration to prepare for peak traffic and plan for failure – to ensure fast, reliable and secure success.

    Here are some key takeaways and the best practices from 2014 that will enable an even more successful 2015 holiday season:

    • Ensure fast and reliable user experiences. Several European regions experienced noticeably high traffic peaks this season. In fact, the Nordics and Spain experienced peak traffic 16 times and 13.5 times higher than their baselines, respectively. To manage these significant traffic spikes, retailers must understand their website capacities and vulnerabilities. Load testing will simulate realistic seasonal traffic, thus revealing the website’s breaking points based on heightened traffic volumes. Retailers can then use this information to avoid glitches in real user scenarios. The key is to model traffic loads based on a full, end-to-end purchase transaction, remembering it is not just your site content that needs to perform well at peak. Testing systems against these numbers will ensure sites won’t buckle under the added (and positive) activity during the winter months.

    • Optimise user experiences, regardless of device and location. Once retailers know they can handle capacity demands, there are three other key ways to ensure seamless content delivery to consumers during the busy winter months:

    » Get content closer to end users. By bringing content closer to the edge of the network, it will be delivered faster to the end user

    » Accelerate online requests to the data center or cloud provider by applying network-based optimisations. Consumers expect fast speedy and safe access to content, regardless of whether they’re at home or in a retailer’s store. Many consumers turn to in-store mobile use to compare prices, read reviews and gather additional product information. A slow connection can negatively affect that shopping experience, so retailers should enhance brick-and-mortar networks

    » Build the website to be as lean as possible. Serving unnecessary bytes is only going to hurt performance and this will be amplified during peak periods. In addition to traditional optimisation techniques, retailers should also take advantage of content and object pre-fetching. They can designate the pages that users are most likely to visit next and cache non-personalized content to minimize round trips, enabling browsers to load and render an application faster. Some sites even go as far as having a separate, lightweight website for sale periods only.

    • Prepare and start sales earlier to take advantage of longer shopping seasons. Traffic peaked throughout Europe in early November; Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the shopping days in between have become increasingly popular. In fact, European Black Friday peak retail traffic grew by 280% over its October 2014 baseline traffic levels, and 360% over its 2013 average traffic. Even so, traditional shopping during January’s winter sales were equally as alive and well in many areas. Retailers should open the sales “flood gates” early and keep them open later to reap the rewards of this longer shopping season. In addition to conducting load tests and bracing for heavier traffic, retailers should communicate with their eCommerce partners to develop a backup plan for various scenarios. For instance, will a retailer fail open or fail closed? In addition to leveraging tools like Shopper Prioritisation, which allows retailers to place shoppers in queue if back-end services are becoming overloaded, retailers should have an operational run book. This will define key components, contacts and dates for holiday promotions and activities, and will enable clients and partners to communicate better, enjoy faster response times and experience increased efficiencies in solving business-critical needs.

  • Akamai 2014 European Online Holiday Shopping Trends & Traffic Report 16

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    to change without notice. Published 02/15.

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    • Secure the site and protect consumer information. With increased traffic and activity comes increased cyber attacks. Like the deal hunters, fraudsters also hope to capitalize on this busy time of year. These attackers come in all shapes and sizes – and they’re targeting retailers of all sizes, too.

    • Updating website rules is the first line of defense. Ensure that IT teams, security professionals and network architects work together to ensure the proper balance between security and performance. This means that retailers shouldn’t simply update to every new rule available. Instead, they should carefully select the rules that are most relevant to the website. By doing this, retailers will not over protect their websites to the point that they shut out the “good” traffic.

    • Enable better mobile user experiences by analysing real shopper scenarios. Europeans are well ahead of their western neighbors in mobile adoption and use. In fact, more than 61% of all Boxing Day traffic came from mobile devices in the UK and Ireland, and an average of 20% of all holiday traffic in Europe was from iPad use. Interestingly, European shoppers actually used mobile devices less frequently during the holidays as compared to the baseline activity, as measured throughout the month of October. It is imperative that retailers optimize their networks and applications to accommodate connected devices, but take time to understand as much as they can about the context and connectivity of their users. Consumers are always connected – whether they’re in their homes, cars, offices or within a retailer’s store. Retailers should have technologies and analytics in place that allow them review real-time user experiences, regardless of where users are and what devices and operating systems they’re using. Only then can retailers make smart decisions about how to improve those experiences.