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Bank Transfer Day nets 650,000 new customers for credit unions

Has there ever been a time like we are now experiencing in the world of banking?  Banking consumers have been barraged by the media, consumer groups, and even Congress on how they are being mistreated and taken advantage of by their financial services firms.

Of all the messages I've seen and heard, the most astounding was Senator Dick Durbin getting up on the floor of the U.S. Senate, urging consumers to "Get the heck out of that bank", and "vote with your feet." 

How did we get to this point?

This can all be traced back to the financial crisis in 2008. Do you remember how bad it got?  At the time, I was working in a large financial services firm, and although I wasn't an "insider" with any privileged information, the worst case scenarios were indeed very scary.  It's hard to imagine it now, but I actually withdrew $500 cash to keep in my house just in case it all came apart (which I have since returned).
Traffic Patterns Underscore the Emergence of the OmniChannel Shopper

I haven't held a single conversation with a retailer in the last year that hasn't touched in some way on the subject of OmniChannel (or MultiChannel, or AgileCommerce ...)  We now understand that shoppers do not singularly interact with your website, or with your store, or with your brand page on Facebook, or with your mobile app.  The journey of a customer to a decision to purchase reflects a fragmented, non-linear process influenced by all of these sources - and many more that are not under a retailer's control.

How did we see this more holistic view of the customer take shape through our traffic usage patterns this holiday weekend?

Cyber Monday Traffic Grows 28% Despite Late Day Waning

Cyber Monday wraps up just behind Black Friday and Thanksgiving

And that's a wrap for Cyber Monday.  As predicted, we peaked just before 9:00 PM EST with both the east coast and west coast online in the evening, and 28% year over year growth.  However we failed to predict that Thanksgiving would still hold the highest peak traffic rate of the weekend at 1.9M pv/min, Black Friday would drive more traffic at 90.9 billion page views for the day, and Cyber Monday would trail in growth behind both days.  Enthusiasm for the deals appeared to wane after an initial flurry of activity, with growth rates bottoming out by midnight EST.   

Cyber Monday graph.PNG

Validation that Social is Driving Commerce

Much has been made this year about the rise of Social Commerce.  Retailers have seized upon the opportunity to tap into the social network "amplification" effect, to capitalize on the viral word of mouth potential.   This holiday season the social marketing activity has taken on a fever pitch, with the majority of retailers publicizing their holiday deals, and in some cases offering social-only offers, through Facebook and Twitter.  This begs the question, how much of the online shopping this season can been correlated to social activity?

In a previous post we mentioned that late Thanksgiving night / early Black Friday morning was the traffic peak of the holiday shopping weekend thus far, shifting the peak traffic time frame for Black Friday from the afternoon to the early morning hours.  In years prior, it was midday on Black Friday. 

Cyber Monday trending 43% higher than 2010

Akamai's Net Usage Index for Retail shows the strong holiday shopping traffic trend continues, with Cyber Monday trending 43% above 2010, and 109% above the 8 week average as of noon ET.  Although higher than 2010, it has yet not reached Black Friday levels.  At noon on Black Friday shoppers had already viewed 45.8 billion page views, versus 41 billion so far today.  While Black Friday peaked in the morning hours, Cyber Monday is not expected to peak until 9:00 PM EST tonight, suggesting that Cyber Monday will surpass Black Friday as the peak traffic shopping day so far this season.

The peak traffic rate of the long weekend was Thanksgiving Day between 10 and 11:00 PM EST, reaching over 1.9 million page views per minute.  The 2010 peak was on Cyber Monday at 9:00 PM (reaching 1.2 million PV/M), so we'll continuing watching the Index with the expectation that a new peak will be reached tonight.

Stay tuned to this blog for more Cyber Monday and Holiday Shopping Trend updates.

Lelah Manz is Chief Strategist, Commerce for Akamai
Lots to talk about this morning, with the online trends emerging from Black Friday, and Saturday starting off very strong.  This post is long as a result but will cover some interesting data:

•    Black Friday traffic growth over 2010
•    The Black Friday surge of late night online shoppers
•    Saturday growth trends so far
•    A comment on web site availability issues

Black Friday Traffic up 30%

While nowhere near as explosive as Thanksgiving Day, the traffic growth continues to trend at much higher levels than 2010, on average 30% higher.  The open question from Thanksgiving was whether Thanksgiving Day was just a shift of shopping activity from Black Friday, or a new shopping day in its own right.  With Black Friday growth data so strong, it appears to be the latter.  Using last year's Conversion Index of .58 on Black Friday, we could be trending towards a new billion dollar online shopping day (hit for the first and only time on CyberMonday last year).
As my colleague Mithu just said to me, "don't jinx it!"  Given it's still early in the weekend, I'm trying my very best to keep my enthusiasm in check.  However the traffic levels we saw over the past 48 hours - and anecdotal data from our Holiday Tiger Team - have me feeling very bullish about our retail customers' success this holiday weekend.

Here's a rundown of the most interesting data points thus far ...

Thanksgiving Day Traffic up 70% over 2010

Last year, Thanksgiving Day clocked in with the highest revenue growth over 2009 of any day during the holiday shopping season, with comScore reporting 28% year over year growth.  With Akamai retail traffic up 76% on average, and 74% at peak at 9:00 PM EST, there are strong indications that Thanksgiving will emerge once again as the star of the holiday shopping weekend.  If we assume the same conversion index (see Part 2 of this holiday blog series) then Thanksgiving Day could exceed $700 million, surpassing Black Friday online totals last year.  The open question yet to be answered - are there more browsers than buyers this year?  If my family's living room, scattered with newspaper ads and iPads for research is any indication, this might be the case.
It's suddenly gone quiet here at Akamai.  The phone is ringing less.  Emails have slowed to a crawl.   While our Net Usage Index for Retail as of yesterday is showing retail traffic hitting new peaks - we are now trending 40% above traffic levels this time last year globally and 50% in North America - the true scaling test for retailers will begin this afternoon.  Our months of preparation are complete; it is now time to wait ...
Many of the analysts and data providers offering insight into the trends of the online holiday shopping season focus on the peak days for revenue.  While an important metric from a retailer's perspective, it doesn't paint the full picture of how shoppers are using the Internet to drive their entire shopping experience.

The Conversion Index
Using Akamai's Net Usage Index for Retail we are able to identify some interesting behaviors around peak shopping days.  As an example, if we correlate the peak traffic days of 2010 in the United States, with ComScore's daily revenue data, we were able to develop a conversion index to give us some indication of the number of researchers or browsers relative to purchasers:


For dozens of us at Akamai, and hundreds of our retail customers, we formally begin the biggest online shopping season of the year on Thanksgiving Day.  We have team members around the world who have been working closely with our retail customers for much of the year to ensure a rich and engaging, always available, and consistently performing site this season.  It's an exciting time as we see the fruits of collective efforts and our technology delivered at its best, resulting in a successful holiday season for our customers.

How to Tackle the Bitrate Debate

More is better, when it comes to video quality, right? More, more, more! Well...yes, and no. Higher quality bitrates can be more engaging...up to a certain point. There is a point at which the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and it doesn't make sense to offer a higher quality stream because it doesn't serve your audience to do so. At what point you ask? That's where analytics come in handy. Audience Analytics can tell you exactly when enough is enough, in terms of video bitrate quality for your content and your audience.

Sure, that may seem like an evasive answer, but that's because the answer really does depend on your content, quality and packaging (more about this in an upcoming post). What I can tell you is what the answer looked like for some recent live sporting events.

Mark Aggar is Spot On

As I'm preparing for Akamai's 2012 sustainability initiatives, I've been thinking about the larger "green" initiatives for our industry as a whole, and how it's critical that we start taking a more systems-oriented approach.

I was just re-reading "The IT Efficiency Imperative," a  great whitepaper authored last spring by Mark Aggar of Microsoft's Environmental Sustainability team. The paper, which "explores the critical importance and substantial benefits of embracing IT energy efficiency" is spot on.

Mark Aggar graph.PNG

Innovation All Star

Last night our CEO Paul Sagan was honored as a "Tech Luminary" at the 16th annual Innovation All Stars awards event, hosted by the Boston Business Journal and Mass High Tech. Selected by readers and editorial staff, Paul was recognized for being one of the "driving forces in the New England tech sector."

The event was held at Boston's House of Blues and drew an impressive crowd of executives from the region's hottest tech companies. It also helped to raise money for FIRST, a non-profit that designs programs to motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math.

You can read more about the awards online as well as in the print edition of Mass High Tech, which comes out tomorrow. Congrats Paul!

Liz Bradley is senior manager of executive communications at Akamai
Since early 2008, Akamai has been publishing the State of the Internet report each quarter - 14 editions in total through Q2 2011.  (The next edition, for Q3 2011, is currently being written and will be published in January 2012.)  As the editor, it has been very gratifying to see that the report series has been extremely well received, with regular coverage in the industry press (such as GigaOM, ZDNet, and eWeek) , and it has also positioned Akamai as a thought leader, affording us the opportunity to contribute to local and national broadband plans, both domestically and internationally.  The availability of high-speed Internet connectivity has become a key roadmap item for both telecoms and governments, with many now committing to achieving specific speeds and coverage levels over the next several years.

Promise of a Connected World

We live in one of the most interesting times in human history, with rapid amounts of change upon our lives.  One of the most profound changes is the advent of all devices becoming connected to each other over the Internet, enabling people accelerate the pace and types of communication.  Connected devices have become embedded in our lives.  
How many of us carry smart phones, tablets, and laptops?  How many of us have game consoles, smart TVs or other intelligent connected devices in the home?  How many different connected devices do we use through a day, across varying types of access such as broadband, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G or LTE? 
Human interaction through multiple devices in the course of a day is becoming the norm, but creates many new challenges. As Chief Strategist, Connected Devices and Gaming at Akamai, I'm focused on solving these challenges so our customers can simply make it all work.

A Winning Team

Akamai recently announced the addition of two exceptionally talented executives to our senior leadership team: Rick McConnell, Executive Vice President, Products and Development and Kumud Kalia, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer.
Individually, Rick and Kumud are tech rock stars in their own right. Together, they complete a winning team at Akamai that is perfectly aligned to propel us even faster forward as we embark on our next stage of growth.
In addition to their impressive industry backgrounds, both Rick and Kumud exude a palpable enthusiasm for what lies ahead at Akamai and we're looking forward to hearing more from each of them soon!

Liz Bradley is senior manager of executive communications at Akamai