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It's springtime, and the only people with the holidays on their minds are in the retail business. This holiday season was a record-breaking one, with combined revenue for Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone exceeding $11.5 billion. To build on that momentum, smart retailers will take a closer look at the key drivers for growth in 2017 to adopt retail strategies that position their companies for success in 2018.

The second Sunday in May is a special day for everyone because it's Mother's Day. It's also a special day for retailers, as it represents another peak period and serves as the halfway point between the prior year's Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) and the upcoming year's retail holidays. The retail spending during Mother's Day provides a pulse on how the spending will be during the major holidays at the end of the year. This year, it's predicted that retail spending during Mother's Day will exceed $23 billion. That's a big deal, because Mother's Day spending has, during the last 15 years, exceeded the $23 billion mark on just two occasions, and it sets the stage for bigger holidays later in the year.

Using our mPulse technology to capture real user data and correlate web and mobile performance to user behavior, we analyzed the data for Mother's Day and would like to share some key trends with you:

Days of clear-text HTTP, the original but insecure foundation for data communication over the web, are numbered. Over the past few years, Google (and others such as the Internet Architecture Board, Mozilla, and Apple) have nudged developers to encrypt and authenticate their websites using HTTPS which layers HTTP over TLS (Transport Layer Security). This includes measures such as ranking HTTP sites lower in Google search results, not supporting powerful features such as geolocation and service workers, and marking a large subset of HTTP sites as "not secure". As a result, there has been a significant increase in the adoption of HTTPS, resulting in a more secure World Wide Web.

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:

 

In the first and second  part of this blog series, we discussed the challenges associated with cloud adoption and how you can leverage Akamai Cloud Delivery Platform, the world's largest and most trusted cloud delivery platform, to achieve the scalability, availability, reliability, security and performance needed to deliver superior digital experiences and maximize customer engagement and revenue.

There is another trend in the market that promises similar benefits as cloud adoption and that is DevOps. In the past few years, there has been a tremendous increase in the adoption of DevOps processes in software development.  Businesses are adopting DevOps practices for reduced time to market, agility and better collaboration between teams (business, operations, development). Continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) of application code and configurations is at the heart of DevOps, providing the nimbleness needed to rapidly deploy new code and faster resolution of bugs and defects.

What to expect for this year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Last year during holidays, US online sales surpassed $122 billion. This represented a 12 percent increase over the previous year. But beyond the overall growth, what's more interesting is that sales at physical stores dropped by 10 percent, the result of ongoing consumer comfort with and adoption of e-commerce buying behavior. Given the performance of holidays so far this year, it seems clear that this trend will continue in 2017. As a result, retailers are stocking fewer items in stores to reduce inventory costs and are hiring fewer seasonal workers as they anticipate lower foot traffic to stores.

 

Are you ready for the holidays?

It's November, which means the holiday season is upon us and retailers are working tirelessly to get their websites, apps and infrastructures ready to deliver a secure and exceptional customer experience during the peak holiday season. If past data is any indication of things to come, 2017 promises to be yet another record-breaking holiday season.

In the first part of this blog series, we discussed how you can leverage Akamai Cloud Delivery Platform, the world's largest and most trusted cloud delivery platform, to achieve the scalability, availability, reliability  and performance needed to deliver superior digital experiences and maximize customer engagement and revenue.

 

Businesses are rapidly moving to the cloud and a recent IDG survey indicates that 70% of businesses have at least 1 application in the cloud and 16% plan to take their first app to the cloud in the next 12 months.

However public cloud providers present their own challenges. They are unreliable which results in downtime, do not focus on performance which results in sluggish customer experiences, and are inflexible which reduces your freedom to pursue the most optimal cloud strategy. This means that the world class digital experiences you create to delight customers, sharpen competitive edge and boost revenue may prove ineffective if you rely solely on public cloud platforms.

 

It's no secret that businesses are rapidly adopting Cloud Service Providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform for cost efficiency, agility, scalability and global distribution to serve their customers more easily. A recent IDG survey indicates that 70% of businesses have at least 1 application in the cloud and 16% plan to take their first app to the cloud in the next 12 months.

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