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With an increase of awareness and interest in Bots' impact - both good and bad - on retail, travel and hospitality companies, Akamai wanted to leverage its global view of the Internet to see what changes occurred for Bot traffic during the recent holiday shopping days for North American retailers. 

The 2015 holiday shopping period lifted off with a bang, setting revenue records for the Thanksgiving weekend and indicating strong revenue trends for the holiday season.

Data from Akamai Retail Net Usage Index, a tool which monitors the company's retail customers' real-time website traffic in page views per minute, supported this trend, as the average page views per minute over the five-days was nearly 70 percent above the baseline.  In North America the highest spike was on Black Friday, a 109 percent increase, as people sought to avoid lines at the store and the general chaos associated with "traditional" Black Friday shopping. Thanksgiving day was a close second at an 80 percent increase over baseline. As digital takes more and more share from in-store shopping, industry research indicates that digital shopping activity will be spread out more evenly across the weekend and the entire holiday period. This better accommodates the family focused nature of the weekend, while still catering to shoppers' desire to find bargains.

Two weeks ago key players in the travel industry gathered from around the world to discover, debate and capitalize on the latest trends and opportunities in travel at the PhocusWright Conference in Fort Lauderdale. One of the hottest topics on the agenda was how to improve the travelers' experience from booking to actually traveling - and how important mobile is to that process. While mobile devices generate 25 percent of the transactions for the travel industry, that actually lags behind other retail verticals for mobile device sales.

2015 Holiday Shopping Predictions for Retailers

We're gearing up for some of the busiest days of the holiday season and that means we're starting to make some predictions around consumer shopping behavior and what retailers can expect to see this year. 

Last year around this same time, we saw an early start to the shopping season, evidenced by an uptick in activity starting as early as Nov. 2. The latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker supports this prediction, stating that just under 45 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday and another 47 percent say they will shop on Cyber Monday. Similarly, Research from the National Retail Federation (NRF) affirms that in 2014 the estimated number of Cyber Monday shoppers was 127 million, with the number of people who shopped on Black Friday at 87 million.

Being truly 'ready' for the holidays means different things to different people and organizations. For consumers, it is getting your house decorated, shopping done and enjoying time with both family and friends. For online retailers, it is finalizing deals, ensuring your website can handle the substantial increase in inbound traffic and of course, the elephant in the metaphorical room, web security and its importance in maintaining a positive brand reputation.

Protect Your Site From Hacking and Fraud During the Holidays

"The threat posed by distributed DoS [DDoS] and web application attacks continues to grow each quarter," said John Summers, vice president for Akamai's cloud security business sector. Malicious actors are continually changing the game by switching tactics, seeking out new vulnerabilities and even bringing back old techniques that were considered outdated.

The traffic on the Internet increased during the 2014 holiday season, so did the number of all types of attack traffic (including application-layer attacks and volumetric, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks) reported the Akamai's Threat Advisory.  Many attackers mask themselves in a sea of "good" online traffic by using proxy addresses that enable them to browse the web anonymously and without geographic origin. Most of these volumetric attacks originate from Bots, software applications that run automated tasks over the Internet.

The Holiday Readiness Countdown

It's never too early to prepare when you're a retailer gearing up for the holiday rush, especially with the continued growth in online commerce. Now is usually the time that shoppers begin making their shopping plans, and even start to make purchases. To help prepare, we've pulled together three essential elements for providing an exceptional customer experience during the holidays, and ultimately converting shoppers into buyers! 

With the holiday season quickly approaching, retailers are thinking through every element of their company's eCommerce plans to significantly boost sales during the busiest shopping time of the year. One of the biggest drivers of online retail sales is user experience, so retailers should place increased emphasis on bolstering the following customer touchpoints during the holiday rush to ensure positive brand interactions that convert browsing into sales:

Consumers shop on the web for its convenience, savings and efficiency. Expectations continue to rise on retailers to deliver exceptional experiences anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Akamai Technologies - 2014 Consumer Web Performance Expectations Survey revealed that 30 percent of users expect pages to load in one second or less and 49 percent expect pages to load in two seconds or less. When expectations are not met, nearly 48 percent will abandon the site and 22 percent will not return.

It seems like holiday promotions have already started for many retailers and the promotion timetables are even earlier than last year. On a recent trip through my local big box retailer I noticed that Christmas decorations are already out, just one aisle down from the Halloween decorations. 

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