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Huge Traffic Volumes on Black Friday

It was a strong Black Friday online by all accounts.  IBM is reporting that sales on the day grew nearly 20% over last year. Black Friday also drove huge volumes of traffic, averaging over 6.3 million page views from 10AM Eastern through to the end of the night.   As expected, peak traffic levels hit at approximately 11am ET, but there was no lull in the high volumes of traffic until the midnight hour.  In the graph below we can see this is comparable to the traffic patterns from years prior.  (A reminder that we cannot compare overall volumes year over year in this graph, as Akamai is tracking a much larger set of retailers and sites this year than in years past).  


Black Friday Peaks 1a.png


Black Friday Drives 25% More Traffic than Thanksgiving

So far the 2011 trend is holding true for the 2012 holiday shopping weekend - Thanksgiving drives the biggest peaks, Black Friday drives the most volume.   The difference in volume between Thanksgiving and Black Friday is well illustrated in the graph below.  With similar peaks, Black Friday's average traffic levels are 25% higher.


Nov Holiday Traffic 1a.png


Mobile Continues its Break-out Year

Mobile purchases are also up with over 24% of visits coming from a mobile device, and mobile sales exceeding 16%. Anecdotally many retailers also reported mobile traffic peaks around 9 and 10:00 PM Eastern.

Retail Site Availability and Conversions - An Operations Point of View

The peaks are of course a concern to retailers, but it's also the nature of those peaks that matter as well.  If most of that activity is browsing, then it's usually easier (particularly for Akamai customers doing Dynamic Page Caching of Homepage, Category, and Product Detail pages with Dynamic Site Accelerator Premier) on application server and database processing, the most vulnerable tiers of a site.  If conversions are higher, then it can put additional strain on the site - and the shopping cart in particular - even with lower traffic volumes.  And in fact in our ADS Data Platform, purchase rates were 47% higher on Black Friday than Thanksgiving. 

This explains why our Shopper Prioritization Application, a traffic throttling solution, was in use more yesterday than Thanksgiving by Akamai customers. 

(Elyssa Duboys will be posting more interesting insights on shopping behavior from the ADS Data Platform on Monday.)

A Look Ahead to Cyber Monday

Last year Cyber Monday was behind Thanksgiving for peak traffic, and behind Black Friday for overall volumes, but drove the highest conversion rates (see Akamai's Holiday Conversion Index from 2011).    While surprising given that Cyber Monday is meant to be the online shopping day, I imagine it will hold true again this year.  With mobile devices accounting for over 25% of traffic and visits, traffic on Black Friday is evidence of the digitally assisted offline sale.  Shoppers are in the stores and using their phones.  With the growth of mobile, Black Friday will continue to become a bigger and bigger day on the online retail holiday season calendar.


Lelah Manz is Chief Strategist, Retail & Commerce, at Akamai.


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