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Are You Ready for Black Friday?

Holiday Shopping Preview: We’re Ready, Are you?

The online holiday shopping season starts in earnest this week. Our benchmark e-commerce sites have been picked out, our tests have been set up, now we’ll see how well eRetailers have heeded our advice and the lessons of the past.

Who we’re watching:

We’ll be monitoring availability and performance for 50 sites. This includes top e-commerce pureplays like Amazon, Overstock, NewEgg, Groupon, Etsy, Wayfair and Jet along with the online storefronts of retailing giants like Target, Wal-Mart, Macy’s, JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, Best Buy, Staples, ToysRUs and more. We’ll monitor both desktop and mobile sites for these retailers. Mobile traffic was higher during the holiday shopping season last year though more than 2/3 of sales were still attributed to desktop shoppers, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark.

What we’ll be monitoring:

We’ll monitor our benchmark sites for nine different metrics including:

  • Wait time: how long it takes for the browser to connect to the web server and receive the first byte of the response.
  • Response time: how long it takes from request being issued to last byte of data received from the base URL
  • Render Start: measurement from when content first displays on the user’s screen
  • Doc Complete: how long it takes for the webpage to become interactive, though it may not be fully loaded at this point
  • Webpage Response: the time it takes from the request being issued from browser to server to receiving the last byte of the final element on the page. This includes DNS resolution, wait time , and server connect time
  • Downloaded Bytes: the total size of the downloaded content of the web page in bytes.
  • Items: how many content items are on the webpage, including images, HTML and CSS files, Javascripts,etc.
  • Hosts: how many web hosts serve the content on the page
  • Availability: percentage of time the web server is available and can be accessed by the browser

When we’ll be monitoring:

We’ll be running our tests all this week as many sites have sales and deals the whole week long. But we’ll be focusing especially on Thanksgiving Night, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is typically the biggest online shopping day not only of the holiday season but the entire year. Last year, $2.04bn was spent online on Cyber Monday, according to Catchpoint customer ComScore. Black Friday was second at $1.5bn. However, Thanksgiving wasn’t far behind at just over $1bn and the Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend accounted for another $2.01bn in holiday spending. The ComScore numbers track online spending only from desktop computers.

What to expect:

Last year, we saw a marked increase in page size (downloaded bytes) for both mobile and desktop sites and a corresponding increase in download complete and webpage response times. Unless online retailers heed our advice to slim down their sites and get third-party tags under control we expect to see this trend continue this year. In which case, we hope e-tailers have a plan in place for when things go wrong.