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Couch Commerce Takes a Cut at Midnight Doorbusters (Part 5 of ongoing Holiday Shopping Series)

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).
Late Night Shoppers Don't Just Wait in Line

Now here's where things get interesting.  Akamai saw 58% retail traffic growth between the hours of midnight and 9:00 AM EST on Black Friday, with the peak during that time period just after midnight.   Shoppers continued strong through 2:00 AM, with the 1:00 AM hour alone showing 86% traffic growth year over year.  Here emerges a new phenomenon - the online doorbusters taking a punch at the bricks and mortar doorbusters.  
hourly peak.PNG

If you compare the snapshots of traffic from 2010 versus 2011 below, you can see very clearly that the peak shifted from 1:30 PM in the afternoon, to midnight that morning.

2011 Black Friday

2011 BF.PNG

2010 Black Friday

2010 BF.PNG

As an added note, while it's tempting to claim that this traffic may be shoppers in line, using their phones, our mobile traffic peak on Friday remained at midday.  This suggests that there were much larger numbers of "couch commerce" shoppers going online once the deals started, rather than hitting the stores.

Saturday Trends So Far

One thing is clear- all of those late night shoppers were finally getting some sleep last night.  We saw half the number of page views this morning as our 1:00 AM EST Black Friday peak.  That being said, relative to last year, this Saturday is already trending higher than 2010 by a wide margin.  Our hourly peaks are, on average, 60% higher than last year.  Is this Saturday set to break out as Thanksgiving did?  Are these researchers or buyers? It's too early to tell, but initial data is very strong. 

hourly peak 2.PNG

A Word about Web Site Availability Problems

Here's the good news.  We saw far fewer cases of availability problems on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday as compared to last year.  The bad news is there were still a few high profile cases of customer problems completing checkouts on a handful of sites.  While it would be entirely inappropriate to comment on any one of these problems specifically, a pattern does emerge.  It's typically the shopping cart that is the most vulnerable to peak traffic loads.  This is consistent with our experience over the last several years.  [Here comes the Akamai technology plug].  Last year at Akamai we talked about the Haves and the Have Nots - those who were using Shopper Prioritization to protect their Shopping Cart and those who were not.  This remains equally true this year.  For a short summary of our Shopper Prioritization technology, check out Part 3 of this series, and scroll down to Step 3 on traffic throttling.

Stay tuned for more trends emerging from the Front Lines of the Holiday Shopping Season!  It's getting very interesting out there.

Lelah Manz is Chief Strategist, Commerce for Akamai


These are encouraging figures for eCommerce sites and no doubt driven by at least 3 factors. 1. Strong proliferation of mobile devices - smartphones and tablets, 2. Free shipping and no sales tax in many cases, 3. The price of gas which is, on average, $1/gal higher than this time last year. The convenience of shopping at home and the bonus of not having to wait outside in lines for hours only to fight over Black Friday deals in brick and mortar stores make online shopping a more compelling experience. Trust in online shopping has never been higher. Besides, comparison shopping, a survival skill today, is just a few clicks (or scans) away.

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with respect Alexei!