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No holidays for cybercriminals

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Great Singapore Sale (GSS). Over the years, we have seen how the annual event has evolved - from expanding into the heartlands to retailers moving online, attracting more customers.

Shopping has long been recognised as a national pastime for Singaporeans, with eCommerce fast becoming a norm. PayPal observed a 12% year-on-year increase in purchases made by online shoppers in Singapore during the year-end holidays of 2013, largely driven by Singaporeans attracted to overseas sale seasons like Black Friday in America and the Chinese New Year sales in China.

The busiest shopping days of the season did not disappoint this year. Peak traffic numbers over the Akamai network on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday were 9.2 million and 9.3 million page views per minute respectively.  Cyber Monday saw an astounding 11.2 million page views per minute at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Though overall traffic numbers were definitely impressive, the growth in mobile activity was particularly interesting. Over the five shopping days following the Thanksgiving holiday, mobile devices accounted for an average of 35% of the traffic. On Black Friday, we saw mobile use peak at 46% of the traffic at 6 a.m. ET, and mobile use continued to surge on Saturday.

This is the first year that we tracked smartphone and tablet usage throughout the holiday season.  Our mobile data was gathered by using an analysis of 30 of Akamai's top online retailers using the company's Real User Monitoring (RUM) functionality.

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iPads have been particularly popular this shopping season, as they led the mobile device category (14.5%) and rivaled Mac desktop (15.2%) activity from Nov. 22 through Cyber Monday. Traffic from iPhones and Android devices followed at 11.8% and 9.8%, respectively. iPad activity was especially high on Thanksgiving day, as a majority of "couch commerce" shoppers logged on with full bellies in the post-company rush at 9 p.m. ET, pushing iPad traffic to an incredible 737 percent over our baseline from early October.

In total, in the days following Thanksgiving, mobile use peaked at nearly 400% over our baseline from early October; desktop traffic peaked at nearly 200% over normal values during the same timeframe.

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Black Friday took the prize as the biggest traffic day this season. iPhone traffic surged early in the day and spiked again in the early afternoon, with averages of 400% to 625% above baseline from early October throughout most of the day on Black Friday. This data suggests that shoppers turned to their iPhones for the best and earliest deals, and likely later used their phones to compare prices and read reviews while they were in stores.

Here's a closer look at how and when consumers visited retailers' websites this past week:

Overall daily traffic peaks

  • Thanksgiving - 2013 peaked at 9.2 million at 10:00 p.m. ET
  • Black Friday - 2013 peaked at 9.3 million at 1:00 p.m. ET
  • Cyber Monday - 2013 peaked at 11.19 million at 9:00 p.m. ET
As more retail traffic and spending flowed online during this key holiday shopping period, attempted cybercrime also appeared to be on the rise.  According to data from the Akamai platform, the company was able to ascertain the following security trends for retail over the holiday: 

  • A 5x increase in Black Friday attack traffic compared to the beginning of November
  • Attack traffic climbed at twice the rate that retail traffic climbed on Black Friday
Be sure to subscribe to this blog feed to see how the rest of eCommerce unfolds, and follow #AkamaiHoliday and @Akamai on Twitter to learn about more the data and trends we're seeing.


Margaret Kuchler is Director Industry Marketing at Akamai

Well, it's here. We're in the thick of the holiday ecommerce season. Mobile traffic to our retailers' sites is growing steadily and we're already seeing more overall traffic than last year.

Though we're still a few days away from the busiest shopping events of the year, visits to retailers' sites would suggest that we're on track with eMarketer's predictions that ecommerce sales will rise 15 percent this year and that mobile sales will account for 16 percent of those sales. Of course, visiting a site and making a purchase are two very different activities, but the interest is there - now it's up to the retailers to turn those browsers into buyers.

Let's take a look at some of our supporting data from this year and last.

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The above figure represents traffic growth from our real-time Retail Net Usage Index (NUI) for a few days earlier this month. The last day shown here is Nov. 20 (last Wednesday). This upward momentum is typical of pre-Thanksgiving traffic, but what is interesting is that last Wednesday saw a 25% increase in peak traffic over the highest spike on the same day last year (which was just three days before Black Friday), with nearly 5.3 million page views per minute. If this kind of growth continues, we could see more than 10 million page views per minute on Cyber Monday this year! (Check out our earlier post for a snapshot of what Cyber Monday looked like in 2012).

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If you're interested in how much of last year's traffic came from mobile devices, take a look at the 2012 breakdown (above) of Black Friday traffic from devices such as iPads, iPhones, Androids, Kindles and Nooks, and Galaxy Tabs. This data is inclusive of all mobile retailer site visits on this popular shopping day, so remember that in addition to browsing products on-the-go and on the couch, many were also visiting ecommerce sites in the stores to read reviews, check product availability and shipping options, and research prices. Since 2010, we've seen year-over-year mobile usage grow by 8 to 10%, and we expect to see a similar climb again this holiday season.

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As we consider how mobile traffic will grow this holiday shopping season, it's interesting to look at how it was trending in the early half of this quarter. The above charts illustrate the mobile activity from more than 30 of our top retailers' sites from Oct. 1 to Nov. 13 this year. Though the previous bar graph shows that 24% of Black Friday traffic came from smartphone and tablet use, this pie chart of recent data shows an average mobile use of nearly 32%.

Another interesting note from this more recent mobile data is the fact that more than 13% of the visits came from iPads, 11% came from iPhones, and 8% came from Android devices. Note that "non-cellular" means the devices were likely WiFi-enabled as opposed to using a "cellular" connection like 3G, 4G or LTE. The latest mobile device tracking suggests that device preferences remain about the same, with slight growth in each category, leading to greater overall mobile adoption and use. It will surely be interesting to see how this trend continues in the coming days!

Be sure to subscribe to this blog feed to see how the ecommerce season pans out, and follow #AkamaiHoliday and @Akamai on Twitter to learn about more data and trends as the holidays unfold.


Lorenz Jakober is Senior Product Marketing Manager at Akamai.





Oh The Hackers Online Are Frightful

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Thanksgiving holiday planning is well underway in the US as is the holiday season that follows. It is gearing up to be a bumper sales cycle this year. This year will not be any different than previous ones in that in addition to great deals there will be bad actors attempting to play the role of good ole St. Nick with nothing but a bag of malicious code for the girls and boys.

One of the biggest online sales days of the year in North America is called Black Friday and it brings out amazing savings opportunities it also brings out the opportunists. This is where it becomes incumbent upon the shopper to exercise some caution.

1. Track your spending. The holiday season can be a blur of hopping from site to site and store to store. Be sure to check your credit card statements to be certain that that line up with your actual purchases.

2. Use reputable retailers. If you're unsure of a retailer don't take the risk. Look them up at the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org) or better yet, go elsewhere if you're have any hesitation. No need to put your finances at risk to save an extra $2 on that widget or grapple grommet.

3. Be judicious in your information disclosure. If you're buying something online take caution that you're not offering up more information than is absolutely necessary. Case in point, I was shopping at a national clothing store a couple years ago and the clerk was insisting that customers had to disclose their Social Security Number in order to complete the purchase as this was part of their current promotion. I declined and advised other shoppers in line that they shouldn't disclose their Social Security Number.

4. Password reuse is a huge problem. There really is no technical solution to this item as this rests with the user. When shopping online almost every site out there asks you to create an account with the option to store your credit card information. If you do this be sure to not use the same password as you do for any other account such as the one you use for banking. One of the issues that we have seen here at Akamai is a growing number of credentials being reused on multiple sites. Once a site gets compromised by an attacker they then end up replaying this login information on other online retailers. Ask yourself for a moment, why would you use the same username and password on a social media site as you do for banking? Let that sink in for a moment.

5. Check yourself before you click that link. Did you receive an email which appears to be from a retailer offering you a deal that is too good to pass up on? Well, quite possibly there is a good reason for that. When you receive a deal that offers you, as an example, a $200 gift card for filling out a survey I would hope that alarms bells sound the alert. Be sure to use your better judgement before you chase after an offer that is possibly little more than a lure.

Akamai offers services like the Kona Security Suite to help secure online retailers from attackers to better protect themselves, and ultimately you.

Tis' the season. Just be careful out there.

(Image used under CC from Cubosh)


The holiday season is upon us once again! Stores are filling with holiday gifts and gadgets and our emails will soon be inundated with holiday shopping deals and ads. With 96 of the top 100 online retailers (according to Internet Retailer) as customers, our Akamai Commerce team has been working around the clock, alongside our retail customers and partners, to deliver, optimize and secure consumers' online shopping experiences this season. Before the season is in full swing, however, we'd like to take a look back at some of last year's holiday shopping traffic trends to paint a picture of what the 2013 online holiday shopping season may look like.

Let's start at the beginning. In 2012, traffic to retailers' websites averaged between two to three million views per minute, give or take a few spikes here and there. As the Thanksgiving holiday nears, the traffic begins to climb to four or five million views per minute. You can see this movement for yourself if you visit our Net Usage Index and select the "Retail" industry. This publicly available index shows web traffic spikes by geography and industry in real-time, and going back about a year and a half.

On Thanksgiving last year we saw online shopping peak at around 9 p.m. ET with nearly 7.6 million page views per minute, suggesting many consumers didn't wait for Black Friday to begin their holiday shopping. As can be expected, Black Friday drove 25% more average traffic than Thanksgiving, with a similar peak of more than 7.5 million page views per minute at 11 a.m. ET. Black Friday tends to drive much higher peaks earlier in the day because of research activity for offline shopping in the morning hours.

As far as where consumers did their shopping, according to a survey from NRF, approximately 48% of respondents did their Black Friday holiday shopping online, and according to data from IBM, 24% of visits on Black Friday came from mobile devices. Additionally, IBM found that nearly 60% of consumers used smartphones and 41% used tablets to look for deals on Black Friday. In 2013, we expect to see more of this on Black Friday, as consumers use coupon and savings sites to do research and search for gifts from the comfort of their own home, as they recover from Thanksgiving dinner. Are your sites ready to deliver great experiences across screens and browsers?

We also saw in 2012 that consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best Black Friday deals. There will be more of this in 2013 as shoppers continue to use the resources they have at their disposal to become smarter and savvier shoppers. Mobile activity peaked between 9 and 10 p.m. ET on Black Friday, with many consumers likely checking for deals on their phones before bed.

 

Last year, the Black Friday momentum continued through the following Saturday, maintaining a peak of 7. 6 million views per minute at 2:05 a.m. ET, meaning that East Coast shoppers browsed well into the morning and West Coast folks stayed up late. They took a break on the Sunday before Cyber Monday, though, with peak views dropping to 6 million per minute at noon ET.


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Cyber Monday in 2012 was incredibly popular, with page views spiking at 8.5 million at 9 p.m. ET, further proving the night owls' approval of the convenience of "window" shopping and purchasing from the internet. We can expect similar behavior in 2013. Whereas other traditionally big holiday shopping days - like Free Shipping Day in mid-December and the December 28 post-holiday sale - will likely be slightly less popular. Last year the peak page views on these days were 4.1 million and 3.6 million, respectively.

 

Last year, online Thanksgiving Day sales increased by 17% over 2011, online Black Friday sales increased by 21% and online Cyber Monday sales increased by 30 percent, according to an annual holiday consumer retail spending report from Baynote. We'll likely see an increase in overall online holiday shopping sales in 2013, similar to what we saw in 2012.

 

We hope you'll find it insightful to compare your site's traffic to the aggregate of thousands of retail sites in the US and Europe. Here are the stats you can expect to find on our blog this season:

  • Overall, online traffic patterns, including peak traffic times and days, through our Retail Net Usage Index
  • The types of mobile devices and browsers consumers are using this year
  • Any other unique and interesting traffic patterns we find

Any other data you'd like us to cover? What are your predictions for the 2013 holiday shopping season? Let us know by commenting below.  

Share your own stories and data comparisons on this blog. Subscribe to this blog feed, or follow #AkamaiHoliday and @Akamai on Twitter to stay in touch and learn about interesting trends we see as the holiday season unfolds.


Margaret Kuchler is Director Industry Marketing at Akamai.

Mastering Multi-Channel Madness

Note: This is the final blog post to our "Crush the Rush" holiday readiness webinar series.

Last week I teamed up with Steve Tack, VP of Product Management for Compuware APM, to talk about Mastering Multi-Channel Madness as part of our Crush the Rush holiday readiness webinar series.

Steve walked through five common mobile pitfalls ranging from making mobile users wait to having mobile myopia to not leveraging third parties value.

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We all know that overcoming these pitfalls will be key to our success this holiday season. Whether it is delighting end-users with speed, or leveraging third parties to drive additional value  - or even innovating with agility - all of these areas hold the key to our holiday success. 

 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at the reality for your customers today. Most retailers jumped into mobile. And let's be clear - mobile isn't just smartphones - it also includes tablets. In fact, if we look at the last holiday shopping season we saw an extraordinary amount of traffic from tablets - in particular during Thanksgiving - so much traffic that this phenomenon started being dubbed couch commerce.

    For years at Akamai, I have spoken at conferences and with customers about the future of the WAN.  While the title of my presentations may have varied - "Next-Generation WAN Services", "How to Redesign your WAN", "Preparing for the Convergence of Private WAN and Internet" - my view has not.  Network architectures need to undergo a huge transformation.  Why?  The increased amount of web traffic finding its way within enterprise private networks.  It's inevitable due to increased adoption of public cloud services, video and other business or recreational traffic.

    Mixing web traffic with other business traffic inside the corporate network creates a lot of strain.  The majority of enterprises today still backhaul traffic from the branch office to the data-center to access the Internet.  The primary reason is for security as it is easier to lock-down a small Internet access points as opposed to going "direct-to-net" at every branch and having to protect all of these locations.  The downside to this approach is the performance impact it has for users in the branch office as their traffic is unnecessarily being routed around large distances, along with scalability challenges as bandwidth available at the branch is limited.  Even for those branches that do connect entirely direct to net, you'll still have to bring the optimizations into the last mile, to solve for scalability and performance.  Ultimately, I believe enterprises will increasingly mix and match their Internet strategies for the branch using techniques like direct to net, split tunnel and path selection depending on factors such as security, quality of service, application type and cost.

    Today, we announced that Akamai has been developing new technology which we call Akamai Unified Performance that brings application performance "behind the firewall" and into the branch office.  With more than 1,000 Commerce, Retail, Hotel and Travel customers, many of these customers have asked us to help them move their Omnichannel initiatives forward as the digital experience increasingly extends beyond home and mobile into their brick and mortar stores.  One of our customers, Marks & Spencer, recently shared that their shoppers spend 8x as much if they can engage them in all three channels.  But enabling the in store Omnichannel experience requires a new approach to the retail store network, as highlighted in this white paper. It involves a whole bunch of new optimizations that allow retailers to extend their investment and experience with Akamai on the web and get those same optimizations into the store - while also accelerating lots of other 3rd party content delivered by Akamai given the Intelligent Platform already delvers 15-30% of all web traffic.

    We also announced today that Akamai and Cisco are working together for future integration of Akamai Unified Performance into the Cisco ISR AX series of routers and we showed a working prototype on the main stage at Edge 13.  The intent is to co-develop enterprise network offerings with Cisco aimed at delivering the world's first combined Intelligent Wide Area Network (IWAN) Optimization solution that provides a high quality end user experience for both public and private cloud applications to all remote offices.  You'll be hearing more from us when products are brought to market, but there are so many possibilities when you think about the routing, performance optimization and security capabilities both companies bring to the table which can overcome existing challenges associated with branch office network architectures and the user experience.

    It's an exciting day for the enterprise WAN (and me).   Read more at www.akamai.com/cisco

    Neil Cohen - VP Global Product Marketing, Akamai

    Crush the Rush - Maximizing Holiday Performance

    The following is a guest post from Senior Solutions Engineer Eric Mingorance


    * This is the third blog post to our "Crush the Rush" holiday readiness webinar series

    Christmas started in July this year. Not just because "Drugstores ‛R Us" and the "ShopMarts" of the world are ever expanding the holiday window in hopes of more consumer revenue, but because Online Marketing, IT, eCommerce and Network departments in the Internet-retail-world started preparing for the traffic peaks and online overload.

    Estimating load, capacity, and throughput, has become the holiday gamble that determines the trifecta payout from the lost investment wager. The thinking is "If you build it (and promote it) they will come!" However we all know that greater traffic brings greater challenges. 

    Those higher and longer traffic peaks tax your Web site infrastructure and stability. There's also a need for greater order velocity and the potential for back-end system overload. Unfortunately this degradation can affect end-user performance.

    To top it off, all the extra marketing & advertising dollars spent simply means that more eyes are upon the tech team internally and externally. There's not only an expectation to perform, but higher scrutiny over the ROI of the large investments made...and of course there's a high opportunity cost of poor shopping experience.

    All this holiday traffic is also affecting your third party vendors and SaaS providers, which can result in issues affecting your site performance and experience. Brand degradation, bad press, loss of loyalty all go beyond just the loss of revenue.

    In our Services webinar, we covered some of the best practices for preparing for the online holiday season commerce conundrum.

    We shared our experience from working with 96 of the top 100 online retailers - what we've learned over the years and from our customers, from load testing to shoring up security.

    • What systems should you baseline and monitor? 
    • Where can you get data and clues about the weakest link in your infrastructure? 
    • How should you focus resources where they'll be in most demand? 
    • What should you prepare for, who will execute the plan, and where will it be documented?

    We also shared insights that should be valuable with or without the use of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) including managing search engine or channel bots as well as throttling traffic under load.

    Last year we saw over 700 attacks on our customers, and the industry attacked the most was Commerce - even more than what we saw in the financial sector and 7 of the top 10 world banks use Akamai.

    While another Crush the Rush webinar specifically covers Defending against a DDoS Attacks we still touched upon security planning and strategy from a high level for the holiday season. 

    • Is your IDS, WAF or Firewall a bottle neck for good traffic as well as bad? 
    • Who has the authority to turn on on/off security protection depending on if it's helping or hurting? 
    • Is that person working on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Are they even reachable?

    We discussed benchmarking performance metrics, setting up alerts, and monitoring, along with having an incidence response plan. 

    We also talked about how to prepare for downtime, from hot-hot datacenters to DR and a failover plans. How to manage traffic and plan for back up branded experience in the cloud. We talked about failover actions to 4xx and 5xx response codes as well as shifting anonymous traffic to a branded waiting experience under heavy load while end-users with items in their cart can use the limited resources to check out.

    Click here to watch the 45-minute video-on-demand and please feel free to email us with questions or comments. We'll respond even in to the holidays - but time is ticking to get proactive as holiday code freezes are just around the corner.

    Note: This is the second blog post to our "Crush the Rush" holiday readiness webinar series.

     

    We all know eCommerce is evolving.  It used to be pretty simple.  A shopper would visit your eCommerce Web application from her laptop or PC. You probably had to support one, maybe two browsers.  But the world has changed - quickly.  The fact is the proliferation of connected devices has changed the way we shop - whether it's couch commerce or show rooming - mobile devices have changed the game.

     

    Yet it's not only mobile that has changed, the desktop/laptop environment has also evolved.  In 2008 the different versions of IE had close to 70% of the browser market share.  This is no longer the case with Chrome, Firefox and Safari growing significantly.  Looking only at the browser families hides a lot of complexity; IE7 and IE8 are not the same browser.  To get a more complete picture of browser development, check out Evolution Of The Web.

     

    Mobile is growing fast.  That is no longer news.  We have all seen Mary Meeker's projections and eBay's mobile commerce retail volume numbers.  And let's remember that mobile is not only smartphones - it includes tablets - in fact, some would argue they are the future of mobile commerce.

     

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    The fact that we no longer go online but are online has driven eCommerce growth.  According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark 2012 US online sales for Black Friday increased ~21% over 2011 and Cyber Monday online sales grew by ~30% over 2011.  Online traffic trends over the years also show considerably bigger spike as more consumers look online for their holiday shopping.  This also means that the cost of failures or slowdowns under peak traffic conditions just keeps getting higher.

     

    Yet delivering fast, scalable Web apps, that keep getting bigger and more complex, to constrained devices over constrained networks, is no simple feat.  It has gotten to the point where sites on the Gomez US Retail Website Performance Index require on average 30 hosts to deliver a home page.  So what happens if one of these third parties has an issue?  That depends on the architecture of the page and often it means a significant degradation of performance from an end-user perspective.

     

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    In this example - measured using webpagetest and Pat Meenan's great SPOF-O-Matic Chrome extension - page load time is significantly impacted by the third party performance issue.  The kicker is that even though this isn't your fault directly, your customers will still likely hold you responsible for the degradation - and likely move on to the closest competitor - which is just a click away.

     

    Compounding the complexity associated with Web app delivery are the ever-increasing end-user experience expectations.  We have talked about this at length in other posts.  If we don't meet those end-user expectations there are consequences.  Real User Monitoring (RUM) made it easy to correlate performance to business metrics such as conversion, bounce or abandonment rates.  Whether its data from vendors like Torbit or from companies like Walmart one thing is clear - the slower your pages the higher your abandonment and bounce rates and the lower your conversions.  In other words, Web performance impacts the business. As far back as 2006, Amazon noted that speed matters. In particular, "Every 100ms delay costs 1% of sales".

    EdgeBanner.pngI'm pleased to invite you to our 6th Akamai Edge 2013 this October 7 - 11 in Washington, D.C. at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Conference Center. Join us and meet up with more than 1,000 of your industry peers and our best line-up yet of industry innovators, as we create the experiences that to drive a Faster Forward World

    Our Biggest and Best Customer Conference Yet! 
    More sessions, tracks and networking opportunities that have all been designed to provide a broader and more diverse perspective for conference attendees. 

    What's New To Help Fuel Your Innovation! 
    This Year we'll be offering a Developers' Track - dedicated to technical professionals seeking to develop new experiences leveraging our platform. We'll have sessions on how to bring applications to market more quickly and intimate developer labs giving you detailed insight on how to get the most out of new features in our platform. We're also pleased to introduce the Web Security Symposium, designed for security professionals. Security leaders and your peers will help you think about strategies for securing your organization's data, sites and applications against the ever-evolving threats of today's online environment. 

    We're extremely excited about the agenda and the lineup of well-known industry luminaries and tech experts who will be presenting at Edge 2013. So much so that we're introducing new conference discounts to help make attending Edge as easy as possible for all Akamai customers. 

    Three Ways to Save: 
    • New Customer Discount: If your company first purchased Akamai services after January 1, 2013, you're eligible to receive a $300 discount on the Full Conference pass. Enter code: 50NEW2013 
    • Edge Alumni Discount: If you've attended an Akamai conference before now you're eligible to receive US$300 off your conference seat. Enter code: ALUM2013 
    • Team Discount: Visit Akamai Edge 2012 With Your Team of 3 or more and save 50% per person. Enter code: GROUP2013 

    From customer innovation stories, industry panels, technical labs, partner and government forums to Web security and developers' tracks, there's something for everyone at Edge 2013. Space is limited and by invitation only so we encourage you not to wait and REGISTER TODAY

    Join us and be inspired. I look forward to seeing you there! 

    Brad Rinklin 
    Chief Marking Officer, Akamai
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