Retail Shopping Traffic Returning To Mid-December Levels

According to SOASTA, analyzing big data from the week before Thanksgiving to the end of December, retail traffic dips around Christmas and New Year, recovers briskly in January, rises steadily after January 2nd, and by January 26th traffic will have reached almost the same levels as mid-December.

SOASTA shares the three most interesting findings from the study, and what they mean for retailers, from information from more than 10 billion user experiences gathered from their customers’ sites.

Finding 1: Black Friday has taken over Cyber Monday online:

Cyber Monday has historically been the biggest day for online traffic. From 2013 to 2015, says the report, the consistent trend was that traffic grew in the week leading up to Black Friday, with an initial spike on Black Friday, and then a greater spike on Cyber Monday, but this trend underwent a radical shift this past holiday season, says the report. While Cyber Monday definitely experienced a significant spike in traffic, it was overshadowed by Black Friday, which accounted for slightly more than 25% of all holiday weekend traffic.

The report suggests some plausible theories for why this seismic shift in consumer behavior:

  • More and more shoppers are avoiding crowded stores and malls on the holiday weekend, and those shoppers are moving online in droves.
  • Black Friday is become on online event as much as it is an in-store event, especially as consumers are getting more savvy about the fact that in-store deals aren’t always as good as they’re made out to be.
  • Roughly 97% of US adults have some kind of mobile device, meaning more and more shoppers are choosing to browse and buy via their phones and tablets than in physical stores.
  • Amazon accounts for much of this change in buyer behavior, says the report. In 2015, just over one third of total holiday spending happened on Amazon. In 2016, 46% of consumers surveyed said they used Amazon for holiday shopping, and 43% bought at least half their gifts from Amazon.

Finding 2: Every Monday is Cyber Monday

Looking at the week before Thanksgiving all the way through to the beginning of January, Mondays were consistently the peak traffic days, outside of Thanksgiving weekend, says the report. This trend persists even after Christmas, as the week after Christmas experienced more total traffic than the week leading up to it. This most probably reflects the growing number of people, says the report, who do some or all of their online shopping at work, away from the prying eyes of family members.

Finding 3: The January Surge

While retail traffic dips around Christmas and New Year, it recovers briskly in January. After January 2nd, traffic rises steadily, says the report. By January 26th traffic will have reached almost the same levels as mid-December. This “January Surge” is great news for site owners, though they need to be mindful of the fact that peak days become more unpredictable and aren’t relegated to Mondays.

Some conclusions and action items, based on these findings, are suggested in the report:

  • Prepare for more consumer activity to move online in the not-so-distant future. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to retailers. Macy’s recent announcement that it’s closing 68 stores and laying off 10,000 workers is one snippet of the writing on the wall.
  • Remember that consumer behavior is unpredictable from year to year. Patterns seen in previous years may not hold, and test plans based on one-year-old assumptions is unwise. A better idea would be to build tests that reflect actual user behavior on your site.
  • Be ready for spikes throughout the entire holiday season, especially on Mondays. Weather could keep people at home and send them online. Political or economic events also affect user behavior.
  • Plan with tablets and phones in mind. The sweet spot for peak conversions is 2.4 seconds for median load times across all device types, says the report. A 2-second improvement for one client almost doubled mobile conversions.

The report concludes by noting that, if you’re competing online, you’re competing with Amazon. Over the holidays, department store sales stagnated or barely grew, while Amazon saw increases of up to 32% in departments ranging from clothing and beauty to home and furniture.

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