Akamai predicted in September 2018 that mobile shopping would continue its growth this holiday shopping season. That prediction held true as we saw mobile devices increase their share of Black Friday online shopping traffic volume to 57.55%, with desktop traffic dropping to 35.91%. And for the first time in Akamai history Cyber Monday mobile shoppers surpassed desktop users, based on session traffic.
Regarding sales, eMarketer recently increased its United States holiday forecast to $1trillion for the first time ever, with ecommerce representing $123.73 billion.
Strength in the labor market by virtue of a low unemployment rate (3.7%), the best wage growth since 2009 and the highest ever Consumer Confidence reading (137.9, according to The Conference Board) all contributed to the revised forecast.
Internet Retailer echoed this optimistic view, predicting that U.S. shoppers would spend a record $21.60 billion online over the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday); this figure represents a 15.5% increase from the same period in 2017.
And as we've seen in recent years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not just U.S. events; they've truly gone global. According to Metro UK, countries such as South Africa and Brazil, along with the UK, were experiencing heightened Black Friday demand, and our global session traffic figures support this finding.
According to an Amazon press release, the five-day holiday shopping weekend broke their records, with Amazon customers worldwide ordering more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined. This portends well for the entire holiday shopping season.
Akamai Black Friday & Cyber Monday Results
The Black Friday traffic (23 Nov) we saw certainly supports the finding of increasing use of mobile devices. First, as stated earlier, mobile increased its share of the online traffic, which we predicted. Compared to Black Friday 2017, mobile usage was up 12% while desktop was down 8%.
This continued on Monday with mobile surpassing desktop for the first time on Cyber Monday despite a larger number of office workers using desktops.
Android's portion of Black Friday online shopping increased from 18% in 2017 to 21%, while iOS only increased 1%. Overall, however, iOS usage was nearly double that of Android (42% vs. 21%) which surprised us since globally, Android market share is approximately four times that of iOS.
On Cyber Monday, iOS held a small lead over Android, much smaller than on Black Friday. We feel this is again related to more shoppers using desktops at work, rather than mobile devices.
When we look at device conversion rates, desktop has a significant advantage over mobile; however, on Black Friday, desktop saw a small decrease in conversion rate compared to 2017. This is in contrast to mobile which increased its conversion rate by 11%, again an indicator of mobile's increasing use at desktop's expense.
We see that iOS had a very slim lead in conversion rates over Android on Black Friday, about comparable to its lead in 2017. Both Android and iOS conversion rates were down compared to 2017, which was surprising given the increase in mobile devices being used for online shopping. A look at 2017 shows the mobile conversion rate at an average of 1.3% versus 7.3% on desktops for some of the larger ecommerce sites (excluding Amazon which is higher according to published reports) which indicates that mobile is tracking higher, while desktop is a bit lower - again, reasonable due to the growth in mobile.
On Cyber Monday, the conversion rates were very similar to Black Friday, suggesting that not a lot has changed and that desktop users are more inclined to complete a potential purchase.
For Black Friday online traffic, as expected, the U.S. led the way, representing 58.71% of the traffic, followed closely by the United Kingdom with 5.06%. In eighth place was Poland (2.13%) which may indicate that Black Friday is extending its reach into Eastern Europe.
On Cyber Monday, the U.S. increased its share of the traffic by 21%, reflective of the fact that Cyber Monday is more a U.S.-centric event than Black Friday at this point. While other countries observe Cyber Monday, many more have taken advantage of Black Friday and its promotions as evidenced in the next set of data.
Measuring this year's Black Friday traffic increase against a baseline of 4 Nov to 10 Nov, the U.S. and Canada saw significant surges in user traffic of more than 100%. However, as evidence that Black Friday is becoming a global phenomenon outside of the U.S., France, Germany, Spain and Italy also saw major traffic increases, in most cases, more than the U.S. For example, user traffic in Italy increased by nearly 200% over the baseline.
Asian countries saw much smaller increases, which stands to reason as Singles' Day was less than two weeks before. But Brazil is another proof point that Black Friday is going global in the southern hemisphere, as its traffic increase was nearly 100%.
On Cyber Monday, the U.S. saw a larger increase in traffic against the baseline than Black Friday; while the other countries (with the exception of China) also increased, it was at a much smaller level than Black Friday. Both phenomena are U.S. 'inventions' but Cyber Monday has not spread at the same scope and scale as Black Friday. As for China, they were probably 'shopped out' from Singles' Day and Monday continued to witness that decline.
Finally, let's examine how the traffic varied between Cyber Monday and Black Friday. This is much more indicative of the decreased interest in the other countries as the drop off in traffic is much higher for the majority of them.
Cyber Attacks Were High
Hackers were out in full force this holiday weekend. Globally, on Black Friday 3.2 billion retail-specific bot attacks were detected, along with 38 million Credential Abuse/Stuffing Attacks. On Cyber Monday, the number of retail-specific attacks decreased, to 2 billion and 26 million, respectively.
Everyone recognizes it's important to protect customer personal data such as credit cards as well as transaction information; not everyone equates degraded site performance with a high volume of bot attacks that prevent legitimate customers from visiting and transacting on a site.
As the Akamai SOTI Q4 2017 State of the Internet Report / Security details, in November 2017, the retail sector saw the largest amount of bot traffic, with 2.4 trillion requests. For perspective, the next highest vertical for bot traffic was high tech, with 1.28 trillion requests (see page. 24). While this year's numbers will be out shortly, security should still be a critical priority as 2 billion is still a very significant number of attacks;
Web Application Attacks
On Black Friday, Russia led the way (43.84%) as the source country for these attacks, with Ukraine (6.44%) and India (4.37%) following. This was a change from Akamai's Q4 2017 State of the Internet Report / Security in which the U.S. was the source of 32% of attacks. Russia was in fifth place in the SOTI report; on Black Friday, it moved up to first position. The U.S. was the leading target country, accounting for 97.72%, with the United Kingdom second (0.90%), and Germany (0.73%) in third.
The Black Friday Web Application Attacks by Percent below indicates that SQL Injection attacks were the most popular attack types by a large margin.
For Cyber Monday, SQL Injection remained the most popular attack method, although overall it decreased in proportion to the other attacks. The United States was the most popular source (25%) and target (66%) country for attacks. China was the second most popular source country (8%) and Russia was third (7.5%). The United Kingdom and India filled out the target country list with 6% and 5% respectively. This coincides with the higher volume of session traffic we saw in the U.S. as compared to the rest of the world.
As the CEO of Macy's disclosed, Macy's expects to hit its target of $1b in sales via its mobile application by year end 2018. This reflects the continued growth of mobile as the platform of choice for online shoppers. Our advice for our retail partners remains the same, prepare for peak traffic, especially at holidays, by testing your systems for stress (as a general rule we suggest 5x the peak traffic you forecast) and optimize your website for mobile visitors, along w/ securing your mobile and web applications.
Akamai can help by testing your website and mobile application performance at varying load levels. To learn how you can easily test from tens to millions of users and from development to production, start with the Akamai CloudTest demo.