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Lots to talk about this morning, with the online trends emerging from Black Friday, and Saturday starting off very strong.  This post is long as a result but will cover some interesting data:

•    Black Friday traffic growth over 2010
•    The Black Friday surge of late night online shoppers
•    Saturday growth trends so far
•    A comment on web site availability issues

Black Friday Traffic up 30%

While nowhere near as explosive as Thanksgiving Day, the traffic growth continues to trend at much higher levels than 2010, on average 30% higher.  The open question from Thanksgiving was whether Thanksgiving Day was just a shift of shopping activity from Black Friday, or a new shopping day in its own right.  With Black Friday growth data so strong, it appears to be the latter.  Using last year's Conversion Index of .58 on Black Friday, we could be trending towards a new billion dollar online shopping day (hit for the first and only time on CyberMonday last year).
As my colleague Mithu just said to me, "don't jinx it!"  Given it's still early in the weekend, I'm trying my very best to keep my enthusiasm in check.  However the traffic levels we saw over the past 48 hours - and anecdotal data from our Holiday Tiger Team - have me feeling very bullish about our retail customers' success this holiday weekend.

Here's a rundown of the most interesting data points thus far ...

Thanksgiving Day Traffic up 70% over 2010

Last year, Thanksgiving Day clocked in with the highest revenue growth over 2009 of any day during the holiday shopping season, with comScore reporting 28% year over year growth.  With Akamai retail traffic up 76% on average, and 74% at peak at 9:00 PM EST, there are strong indications that Thanksgiving will emerge once again as the star of the holiday shopping weekend.  If we assume the same conversion index (see Part 2 of this holiday blog series) then Thanksgiving Day could exceed $700 million, surpassing Black Friday online totals last year.  The open question yet to be answered - are there more browsers than buyers this year?  If my family's living room, scattered with newspaper ads and iPads for research is any indication, this might be the case.
It's suddenly gone quiet here at Akamai.  The phone is ringing less.  Emails have slowed to a crawl.   While our Net Usage Index for Retail as of yesterday is showing retail traffic hitting new peaks - we are now trending 40% above traffic levels this time last year globally and 50% in North America - the true scaling test for retailers will begin this afternoon.  Our months of preparation are complete; it is now time to wait ...
Many of the analysts and data providers offering insight into the trends of the online holiday shopping season focus on the peak days for revenue.  While an important metric from a retailer's perspective, it doesn't paint the full picture of how shoppers are using the Internet to drive their entire shopping experience.

The Conversion Index
Using Akamai's Net Usage Index for Retail we are able to identify some interesting behaviors around peak shopping days.  As an example, if we correlate the peak traffic days of 2010 in the United States, with ComScore's daily revenue data, we were able to develop a conversion index to give us some indication of the number of researchers or browsers relative to purchasers:


For dozens of us at Akamai, and hundreds of our retail customers, we formally begin the biggest online shopping season of the year on Thanksgiving Day.  We have team members around the world who have been working closely with our retail customers for much of the year to ensure a rich and engaging, always available, and consistently performing site this season.  It's an exciting time as we see the fruits of collective efforts and our technology delivered at its best, resulting in a successful holiday season for our customers.
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