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Device Hopping Shoppers Drive Up Bounce Rates Leading Into Holiday 2019

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Executive Summary

In 2018, Akamai reported for the first time that shoppers used mobile devices more than desktops for all the major peak traffic events we measured. Interestingly, they often don't complete their purchase on a mobile device. If the most recently concluded back-to-school shopping period and Amazon Prime Day are any indicator, the trend is here to stay and likely to increase into the holiday shopping season.

Akamai tabulated and analyzed aggregate statistics from global online retail traffic that touched nearly 100 retail websites and mobile retail apps, providing Akamai with more than 5 billion daily data points. 

For all statistics, the 2018 period was from 8/20/18 to 9/7/18 and the 2019 period was from 8/19/19 to 9/9/19.

It's important to note that consumers continue to diversify the way they shop and make purchase decisions, demanding better content such as short-form videos. This, coupled with an increase in API traffic and third-party apps had a negative impact on bounce rates; while falling within industry benchmarks they increased over 2018 a result of more complex pages and heavier content. These bounce rates can be mitigated, and consumer trends will force the issue of better site optimization, and careful management of rich assets.

Mobile remains the research king, Android makes impressive gains

No surprise, mobile (smartphone) devices were responsible for 57% of traffic to retail sites compared to 37% for desktop (tablets were used a paltry 6%). Last year, we reported that for the first time, mobile devices were used more than desktops in all the peak traffic events we covered.

Mobile device usage increased by a respectable 14% compared to 2018, but tablet drop off was nearly twice that of desktop. This is consistent with the 5% tablet shipment decline that IDC reported in August of 2019. As smartphones become larger as well as more powerful, consumers have seen less of a need for tablets.

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The chart below (RIS News "Retail 2025 Shopper Study") reinforces how consumers are using mobile devices while in a store -- checking promotions, prices and research. The actual "Order and pay for a product (on a mobile app)" action taken by shoppers was dead last. This is consistent with our findings; shoppers preferred to do their actual purchase on desktop and tablets (conversion rates of 2.59% and 2.33% for desktop and tablet, respectively) than mobile (1.23% conversion rate). One theory is that to complete a purchase, shoppers must complete a complex form, provide detailed information, and check product details along with terms and conditions. Doing this on a site not optimized for mobile is difficult for shoppers and forces them to desktops.

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However, while desktop and mobile conversion rates held fairly steady, tablet conversion rates decreased by nearly 10% which reflects the 5% drop in shipments discussed above.

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The difference between iOS and Android users' conversion rates has narrowed dramatically, compared to what we saw last year where iOS users seemed to show a higher propensity to purchase than Android users.

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Globally, Android users outnumber iOS and there was still a significantly larger increase in the number of Android users from 2018. Last year, after its iPhone XS introduction, sales slowed as many markets have begun to reach maturity and iPhone customers have slowed down their inclination to upgrade their devices every year.

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Browser usage corresponds to the growth in Android users as Chrome increased its usage by 10%. While from a pure scale perspective the 42% increase in Facebook browser use seems impressive, it still accounts for only 2% of users.

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Bounce Rates

Along with conversion rates, a key metric to monitor is bounce rates - in 2019 a good benchmark for ecommerce sites is 20%-45%. The bounce rates we measured fall into that range, but the fact that 2019 bounce rates increased over 2018 is a concern.

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There could be several reasons for this as pages become more complex (third party applications and JavaScript) and 'heavier' pages. One of the clear reasons for pages slowing down is the dramatic increase in API driven traffic. According to the SOTI report published earlier this year, an October 2018 survey of traffic on our network revealed that 83% of the hits are API (JSON [69%] and XML [14%]) driven with only 17% being HTML.  This is a huge increase (77%) to a similar survey conducted in 2014 where 47% was driven by these two protocols.

Heavier pages stem from the growing use of rich content as retailers recognize their customers are increasingly looking to view the merchandise in short-form videos, along with rich images. Like images, videos must be optimized for the connection speed and viewing device, otherwise the shopper will move on quickly. Akamai research has shown that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave if the web page they're viewing takes more than three seconds to load.

Keep in mind that a rapidly growing aspect of the buyer's research is user reviews. Shoppers hold them in high regard, and frequently contribute on their own. These users typically upload a 'standard' smartphone image or video, typically 12MB or more that is not optimized. Retailers need to include this content in their optimization plans as all these images and videos in reviews will negatively affect the shopper's CX.

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Summary

Mobile use will remain higher than desktops, especially as more shoppers continue to use their smartphones to research while in-store. However, they will ultimately make their purchases on their desktop or tablets instead of their mobile devices. Retailers must continue to optimize the CX for all three devices, despite the decrease in tablet users.

Keeping a focus on bounce rates, retailers should ensure their optimization initiative extends to APIs, third-party applications, and content such as short-form videos. User-provided content, particularly with respect to product reviews, is also part of the equation.

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