Akamai Diversity

The Akamai Blog

Increased mobile engagement a key catalyst for the best-ever holiday season

2017 was a year of epic proportions that broke numerous retail records worldwide. The stage was set earlier in the year by Amazon's Prime Day, which became Amazon's biggest day ever by generating over $1 Billion in sales (60% increase YoY). This was followed by Singles' Day, during which Alibaba generated a record $25 billion in sales (a 39-percent increase over 2016). And then Black Friday and Cyber Monday joined the party by generating revenue of over $11.5 billion. Cyber Monday went on to become the largest online shopping day in US history.

A key trend that played out throughout the year was a significant shift in buying patterns; more consumers moved to shopping online and, as a result, there was a decrease in traffic at brick and mortar stores.  Among the three major platforms for online shopping (namely desktops, mobiles and tablets), mobile devices played a pivotal role during this year's holiday season. In fact, close to 40% of the Black Friday revenue was generated via mobile devices and smartphone revenue on Cyber Monday grew 32.2% from last year, reaching a new all-time high of $1.59B.

The week before Christmas was the last peak period for retailers in 2017 to appeal to consumers that were frantically looking to buy gifts for their loved ones. A recent NRF survey showed that only 12 percent of consumers had finished their holiday shopping as of December 12, with the average shopper having completed only 61 percent. As a result of this, there was a huge surge in traffic on our platform during the week before Christmas. Here are the key trends that we observed on our platform in 2017, one of the most successful years for retailers:


Conversion rates on mobile devices during the week before Christmas exceeded Cyber Monday resulting in a successful holiday season

Similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, mobile devices played a pivotal role during the week leading up to Christmas. The plot below shows the traffic distribution to the Akamai platform from desktops and mobile devices. It is interesting to note that as we got closer to Christmas, traffic from mobile devices dwarfed the traffic from desktops. In fact, on Dec 24th, traffic distribution from mobile devices (56%) surpassed that on Black Friday (50%). This is likely due to consumers being away from desktops at their workplace and home due to holidays and prefer the convenience of shopping from mobile devices.

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The plot below compares the mobile conversion rate for the week before Christmas with Cyber Monday and the baseline of October 2017. The conversion rate for the week before Christmas was not only significantly higher than the baseline of October 2017, but for the first four days of the week it exceeded the conversion rate on Cyber Monday. The drop in conversion rate as we got closer to Christmas could be attributed to consumers missing the time window for getting the gifts shipped to their home. But since the conversion rate for the last three days of the week was higher than the baseline, it shows there were numerous last minute shoppers who were taking advantage of offerings such as buy online and pick up in stores. Consumers' penchant for mobile devices showed no signs of decrease in 2017 and it is very likely that we will see even higher engagement via mobile devices in 2018.

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Retailers continue to capitalize on international holidays such as Boxing Day

The day after Christmas, also known as Boxing Day, is the last retail holiday of the year and typically popular in countries such as UK. In UK, the traffic to brick and mortar stores decreased 4.5% YoY; however, this was offset by a surge in online traffic. On Boxing Day, online traffic in UK on our platform increased by 113% as compared to the average traffic in baseline month of October 2017. In fact the Boxing Day traffic was 21% higher than Black Friday and 83% higher than Cyber Monday traffic.

The table below shows the overall conversion rates for US and UK. The conversion rate in UK was not only significantly higher on Boxing Day as compared to the baseline but was also higher as compared to the previous year. Many retailers in our study are based in US, so it is interesting to see these retailers have invested in their properties to provide engaging experiences in order to capitalize on international holidays.

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Android devices on track to outperform iOS devices in conversion rates in 2018

The general rule of thumb is that iPhone users spend money more than Android users. This turned out to be true during Black Friday and Cyber Monday where the average order revenue was higher on iOS devices. Even though the traffic on iOS devices was 126% higher than Android devices on Black Friday 2017, the conversion rate on Android devices exceeded the conversion rate on iOS thus reinforcing the notion that, while iOS users are generally more affluent and likely to spend more, Android users are more tech-savvy and comfortable with mobile commerce.

For the week before Christmas, the traffic on iOS devices was 118% more than Android, but the conversion rates on iOS and Android devices were quite comparable. However, if you compare them to the conversion rates on Cyber Monday 2017 (which was the largest online shopping day in US history) then Android devices fared better than their iOS counterparts. The conversion rates on both these platforms decreased as we got closer to Christmas for the same reasons that were outlined in the earlier section of this blog. It will be interesting to watch how this tussle plays out in 2018, even though more consumers shop on iOS devices, will Android devices will consistently outperform iOS devices in terms of conversion rate?

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Are you ready for the peak periods in 2018?

It's winter, which means for those of you in cold regions, there's no respite from freezing temperatures and holiday readiness may not be the first thing on your mind. But 2017 showed us that every holiday was bigger than the previous year and retailers that optimized their apps, websites and infrastructures to provide engaging digital experiences reaped huge rewards. With Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year just around the corner, it's not that long before peak traffic hits your websites and apps again. Check out these resources to help you maximize revenue and engagement during peak periods in 2018.