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Site Speed and the 2021 Cyber 5

As eCommerce brands begin looking ahead to Cyber 5 2022, let's review what happened in 2021. Will last year's surge repeat?

This article was written and contributed by Rick Kenney, an expert in eCommerce benchmarking.

Let's look back to November 2021. If you recall, the headlines read: "Digital Surged Again in November, rising 11% against the same period last year." The engine driving last November's gains was Cyber 5, Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. These five days accounted for 31% of November's sales. Each year these days are circled on every retailer’s — and shopper’s — calendar as must-shop moments. But how are shoppers shifting their behavior during these key days?

Here’s a look at the shopping activity of more than 200 million Cyber 5 shopping sessions across the YOTTAA community of retailers and brands:

The Cyber 5 peak doubled pre-peak levels

While brands encouraged — and shoppers acquiesced to early shopping in 2021, Cyber 5 traffic soared far above pre-peak levels. Comparing the same-day period of the pre-Cyber 5 days to during the Cyber 5 reveals just how steep the incline was. Overall, traffic was up 42% as shoppers crowded into digital. And, as expected, the elevated levels of shopping intent boosted conversion rates 44% week-over-week. Putting those two levers together; more traffic and stronger conversion yields the top line gain of 104% order growth.

Strong intent delivers high (page) consumption

An increase in page views was at the center of the conversion rate boost.  

During Cyber 5, shoppers consume more. Both buyers and browsers view more pages throughout their journey. On mobile, buyers viewed 2.7 more pages during their journey, while desktop shoppers consumed 3.4 more pages when you compare the site speed standard (non-holiday) to the cyber 5 stats.

Optimizing the most important page on the most important day

That extra page view we’re seeing is likely either a product detail page (PDP) or category page; during the Cyber 5 peak, those two pages accounted for 70% of all page views from buyers. From this, the product detail page stands out — the most popular page delivered 36% of all buyer visits on mobile.  

The PDP has been the source of great focus and innovation in recent years, with embedded buy buttons, more user-generated content, and deeper personalization. All this innovation means heavier pages, thrusting optimization into the spotlight as a mandate to keep pages loading quickly for shoppers. And on the biggest digital shopping day, Black Friday, the PDP was the biggest beneficiary of optimization: PDP load times sped up by 2.7 seconds for desktop shoppers, and 1.8 seconds on mobile when optimized, and the gains carried through the entire Cyber 5 period. Site speed optimization delivered when retailers — and shoppers — needed it most.

Shoppers are…patient?…

Shoppers proved to be uncharacteristically patient during Cyber 5. On pre-peak sessions, bounce rates reached 72% on desktop when page loads stretch beyond 6.5 seconds. During Cyber 5, with shoppers determined to buy, retailers saw bounce rate fall 10 percentage points at the same page load time.

… but faster is still far better

Even with shoppers willing to temporarily put up with slow page loads, site speed is a prime influencer of performance. On both desktop and mobile, bounce rates DOUBLE during the slowest sessions, compared with the fastest. The cardinal rule of speed applies: slower site, bigger bounce.  

More positively, faster page loads spark joy in the form of higher conversion rates. On desktop, the fastest sessions nearly DOUBLE conversion rates. And on mobile, conversion rates rise above 4% when pages load in under 4 seconds. Simply put, faster pages make for high converting shoppers.

The Cyber 5 is a big moment for eCommerce and provides a projection of what’s to come; the PDP will continue to reign, and faster sites will convert better and bounce less. For more commerce and site speed insights, visit the Site Speed Benchmark.