The first major peak traffic event for online shopping in the United Kingdom is Mother's Day, held this year on Sunday, March 31.
As we did during peak holiday traffic events last year, we tabulated and analyzed aggregate statistics from global online retail traffic that touched nearly 100 retail websites and mobile retail apps, providing Akamai with more than 5 billion daily data points. We also extracted data for the United Kingdom and its most closely related countries, along with the United States for comparison.
Evaluating session traffic for the United Kingdom and related countries we compared the 2019 baseline (Feb 1 to Feb 28) against the same baseline period for Mother's Day 2018; traffic was up overall (the only exception being Canada).
On Mother's Day itself, session traffic dropped as you might expect. Let's believe that most people were visiting their Mom and not shopping online! The key exceptions are Australia and New Zealand on this specific date (March 31); which is logical since they are over the international date line.
This year, the use of mobile devices continued its mega trend of being used the majority of the time, over desktop and tablets, which remained consistently low on all of the days:
From Mother's Day 2018 to Mother's Day 2019, Desktop as a percentage of the total dropped 6.69% while Mobile increased by 11.24%. Tablet as a percentage decreased by a whopping 29.98%, which continues to reinforce how much shoppers are using their smartphone as the preferred way to shop online, especially while out and about, away from home.
Also, according to a survey by Yes Marketing, "about 57% of more than 1,000 consumers said they have used a retailer's mobile app while in-store, often to redeem or find coupons or discover items on sale which points to how retailers are increasing their marketing efforts through loyalty or other promotions via their branded mobile app in order to entice shoppers into their stores."
This is reinforced by a slight increase in footfall traffic as reported by Ipsos Retail Performance (written in early March, hence the lack of information about April); "overall year-on-year numbers (Jan & Feb 2019) were down by -4.6%, while month-on-month figures fell -16.2%. March is expected to bring little respite. Although a repeat of last year's Siberian weather conditions is not anticipated, neither will there be an Easter boost to shopping, as it falls in April this year.
Footfall is likely to remain placid in the month ahead, with average weekly numbers forecast to edge up by +1.9% on February and by +1.0% on last year."
Android users increased their portion of online shoppers by 30% from Mother's Day 2018 to 2019. However, while the number of iOS users actually decreased year-over-year, they still outnumbered Android users nearly 2:1:
Mobile OS conversion rates remained consistent with what we saw last shopping season as well, with iOS users showing a higher propensity to purchase than Android users. However, both sets of OS users increased their conversion rates substantially, perhaps due to an increase in mobile user experience (UX) focus and better incentives for mobile users via their branded apps:
Examining conversion rates for key United Kingdom and related countries, in addition to the United States, the conversion rate drops off as Mother's Day approaches and shoppers begin to complete their shopping. But it does begin to pick up slightly on Mother's Day itself, perhaps for those last-minute purchases. Overall, the mobile conversion rates are still below desktop and tablet conversion rates; tablet conversion rates are high despite being the lowest device usage:
Aside from the U.S., country conversion rates held fairly steady the week leading up to Mother's Day, with a slight decrease closer to the actual day. This seems logical as most of the gift purchases would (or should) have been completed prior to Mother's Day.
This is consistent with what we observed globally during the 2018 peak holiday period. Desktops and tablets, with their larger screens, are more conducive to shoppers researching and searching for the merchandise they wish to purchase. According to research by Contentsquare, "users are increasingly using mobile as their preferred channel for online shopping, however poor user experience because sites aren't optimised for mobile stops them spending more".
Image optimization is a key area that retailers need to continue to focus on, as they strive to provide a superb UX for mobile shoppers in order to gain a competitive advantage and increase sales. Serving images, and increasingly, video that is optimised for mobile devices, including today's larger smartphone screens, will pay off for those providers that make the investment. High quality mobile experiences are increasingly important as shoppers are showing a greater propensity to purchase online and visit a store to pick up their merchandise, an approach referred to as Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS), listed as the #1 2019 trend for retailers.
According to Akamai's '2019 State of the Internet / Security: Retail Attacks and API Traffic' (SOTI) between May1 and Dec 31 2018, there were 10 billion credential stuffing attempts in the retail industry detected on Akamai's network. Overall, Akamai detected 28 billion credential abuse attempts in all of our customers' industries over the same period; retail was the top industry targeted (see the chart below). Clearly, retail is the most attractive target to threat actors on the hunt for customer data, credit cards, etc.
Mother's Day is the first major U.K. holiday of the year, and comparing it to a similar U.K. holiday, Boxing Day (2018), the number of attacks are higher in all categories, with the exception of Remote File Inclusion attacks.
Threat actors are not slowing down, as evidenced by the above-mentioned SOTI report and the 2018 numbers. Retailers should continue to take measures to detect, mitigate and prevent web application attacks.
The Akamai report 'State of the Internet / Security: DDoS and Application Attacks' highlights bot-generated automated credential stuffing attempts that we track. According to our research, bots can represent up to 60% of overall web traffic, but less than half of them are actually declared as bots - making tracking and blocking difficult. Compounding this is the fact that not all bots are malicious, which the SOTI report elaborates on.
As with all the peak holiday traffic events we monitored and reported on in 2018, the U.S. was the top country targeted for attacks; logical due to the high number of online users.
For this holiday, the U.S. was the highest source country, also consistent with other 2018 holidays like Boxing Day. However, as always, it's very easy for threat actors to obfuscate their true origin so it's challenging to ensure 100% accuracy.
The Performance and Security peak holiday traffic trends that we analyzed and reported on in 2018 have continued into 2019, demonstrating that retailers cannot and should not relax their security vigilance and efforts to provide an optimal user experience (UX). This first major online U.K. holiday has provided us the opportunity to assess actual global data to validate our recommendations for our retail customers.
These recommendations center on providing a secure online environment for their customers along every stage of the transaction, including research, purchase, capture and storage of identity information, to help comply with regulations and address data privacy concerns. Bots in particular poses a significant challenge to distinguish between 'good' and malicious intent. Retailers should seek a partner such as Akamai to provide solutions and expertise.
In 2018, Janrain (now part of Akamai) polled U.S. internet users, putting this question to respondents: "The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will give European Union citizens greater control over how businesses can use their personal data. Would you like to see similar laws enacted in the US?" The majority of respondents (68%) said yes, while 10% said no and the remainder were unsure.
Performance matters too, retailers need to be prepared for ANY peak traffic event that could potentially stress and negatively impact the responsiveness of their site to customer's use. And, regardless of peak traffic, customers are expecting, and demanding, a superior UX. This primarily means optimizing images and videos, for each and every device (desktop, mobile, tablet) and access method (browser, mobile app).
While mobile devices should continue to be used more than desktops, it's clear from the data that tablets and desktops are still an integral part of the customer's buying journey. Each of these devices presents their own requirements for how information is presented to the user. Akamai has solutions that can automate this management, thereby freeing up your resources, and help you understand the business impact of performance with real user monitoring so you can react and make measurable changes.
Prepare for peak traffic by testing your website and mobile application performance at any load and request your CloudTest demo.