What the death of Cyber Monday says about our broadband habits

Written on:November 28, 2011
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The effort to figure out the biggest online shopping day of the year is still in flux with Thanksgiving, so far, seeing the peak traffic for the shopping season according to Akamai. Will this year be the one where Turkey day beats out Cyber Monday? We’ll have to wait a few more hours to find out. But the loss of Cyber Monday, which got its name when most people had to go into their offices to shop online, shows how far broadband, and now mobile, have come.

Wikipedia notes that was the first to use the term Cyber Monday back in 2005, but the phenomenon of increased web traffic had been noted by retailers for a year or two prior. In 2003, only 20 percent of U.S. homes had broadband connections, a figure that stands at 68 percent today. But in the last few years, as Cyber Monday traffic has bled back into Black Friday and even the two days of the weekend, the smartphone has changed the holiday landscape even more.

So while PayPal is reporting that it is seeing 6 times the traffic today than it did last year, it’s the Akamai data around traffic generated on Thanksgiving that catches my eye. Much like last year, it seems consumers are not waiting for any industry-mandated shopping day to submit their credit cards online. Thanksgiving itself experienced a 70 percent growth traffic according to Akamai, which saw a peak traffic of about 2 million page views per minute on Thanksgiving evening — the peak so far for this shopping season.

Is it mobile or marketing?

Akamai reports that on Black Friday, it counted 1.6 page views per minute during its peak at 12 am ET, and overall Black Friday traffic was up by 43 percent. But note that when Akamai saw the peak it was still 9 PM on the West Coast, which means shoppers were hopping online on turkey day itself. Perhaps on the couch after their meals or maybe because the promotions were too good to pass up?

So far today, Akamai sees a peak of 1.6 million page views per minute as of about 2 p.m. ET. and wrote on its blog that Cyber Monday will surpass Black Friday as the peak traffic shopping day so far this season, and should do so some time tonight. Once again, the office isn’t the place to shop online anymore. Akamai is waiting to see if Cyber Monday will beat the Thanksgiving peak.

More people, fewer problems, faster sites.

No matter when people hopped online, there were more of them and the sites ran faster. Web tracking by SmartBear on Black Friday shows that retailers’ sites were about 30 percent faster as of November 25 then they were throughout all of the previous holiday seasons. According to data from SmartBear, which provides metrics on site performance, sites that took 20.83 seconds to load during the holiday last year took only 14.67 seconds on Black Friday itself. Target, the Gap and Toys R Us experienced some issues, but more so on Thanksgiving as opposed to the day after.

Akamai said last year’s global retail traffic peaked at 1.3 million page views/min at Noon ET on Black Friday, which makes this year’s peak 20 percent higher. On Cyber Monday of 2010 global retail traffic peaked at 1.3 million page views/min at 1 p.m. ET, while this year, we’re still waiting.

This is good news for retailers who feel the pinch of lost revenue when customers can’t shop online, but it’s also good for consumers who are impatient to buy their merchandise and get on with their lives — even for those who are increasingly using mobile devices to shop while possibly doing other things. As Ryan Kim notes in his article this morning:

JP Morgan noted a survey over the weekend that found almost 15 percent of respondents will shop on a smartphone or tablet on Cyber Monday, compared to 6.9 percent who did so last year. IBM Coremetrics said sales on mobile devices for Black Friday increased to 9.8 percent from 3.2 percent year over year.

So, more of us are online, using mobile device as well as our PCs, while the web keeps getting faster. Looks like holiday shopping mirrors the broadband experience as a whole.

For those who care how their favorite retailer fared the onslaught, below is SmartBear’s charts on how various online merchants performed on Friday. RT is response time.

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