Black Friday and Cyber Monday Performance 2020

Data & Analysis

The year 2020 has disrupted every norm in our lives and redefined how the world functions. The pandemic has been a real test of the internet’s true power with everything shifting online – companies shifted to a remote workforce, meetings and conferences went virtual and retailers were forced to quickly ramp up their online presence to stay strong in the market. The tech industry has had to fast-track digital transformation to maintain a level of normality and to keep businesses running.  

This year, the holiday sale season approached with tempered enthusiasm and was not expected to break records. As anticipated, during Black Friday 2020 the in-store traffic dipped drastically. According to Sensormatic Solutions, “ Shopper traffic data indicates that visit to physical stores on Black Friday decreased by 52.1% compared to 2019.” Retail store footfall was hit hard with lockdowns and consumers opting to shop online rather than taking the risk of visiting a store.  

With more shoppers going online, eCommerce sites prepared well in advance to handle the surge in traffic. Let’s look at how the online retailers performed over the Black Friday weekend through Cyber Monday.

Early Offers and Waiting Rooms

As retailers expected fewer in-store shoppers, the focus was on promoting more online deals in a bid to encourage online shoppers. To handle the surge in online traffic, retailers rolled out offers weeks before Thanksgiving. Allowing shoppers early access to deals was just one of the stop-gap measures used by major retailers to spread out traffic.  

Waiting rooms were another measure used by major retailers to maintain application availability. Consumers were redirected to a virtual “waiting area” and then allotted a shopping slot prioritized based on the amount of traffic the application was handling.  

Fewer Outages and Better Overall Performance

Compared to previous holiday seasons, this year there were no critical performance incidents that impacted Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Last year, there were big retailers like Costco and H&M were grappling with downtime that lasted for over ten hours. In comparison, this year they did a better job at maintaining availability and performance.  

Barring a few location-specific outages, Catchpoint did detect performance degradation for a few retailers. We identified an issue with the product page of one of our customers, a prominent audio equipment manufacturer. The “Buy Now” button was missing due to a CDN cached related issue. The customer was able to quickly troubleshoot and resolve the issue with the detailed analysis provided by Catchpoint. Another retailer faced problems with their search page, the search function failed to return results, but it impacted only a certain location. The retailer quickly resolved the issue after isolating the root cause using Catchpoint.

The image below ranks top retailers that Catchpoint monitored over the last few weeks. The websites were evaluated based on the webpage response (time taken for the website to load completely). Apple, Walmart, and Victoria’s Secret were some of the websites that delivered optimal end-user experience with a load time that was consistently less than 2 seconds.

(Click to Enlarge)

This year the shift in consumer behavior was inevitable, online shopping was expected to bring in the most revenue. According to Forbes, “Cyber Monday was projected to be the largest online shopping day in U.S. history and it delivered just that— a 15.1% increase over last year coming in at $10.8 billion for the day.”

Major eCommerce players realized that they needed to evaluate everything from infrastructure to the application code itself to successfully handle the surge in online shoppers during the Black Friday week. A lot of retailers were able to avoid major downtime during the holiday sales season and this is a result of prioritizing application performance and end-user experience. Many retailers have invested in understanding the end-user experience and preparing well in advance to ensure:

  • The infrastructure is able to handle load efficiently  
  • Code changes are tested for bugs
  • Application performance is benchmarked
  • Third-party performance is optimized

Catchpoint’s Holiday Performance Monitoring was set up with a focus on these critical steps in performance optimization. We helped our customers prepare well in advance so that they could stay on track and deliver exceptional end-user experience during the holiday sale season. We tailored the monitoring strategies for our customers to increase visibility and better detect performance issues and as a result, they maintained high application availability, performance, and reliability during the sales period.

Learn more about monitoring and website optimization in our upcoming webinar on ways to improve web performance testing. Leo Vasiliou, Director of Product Marketing at Catchpoint, and Tyler Ofria, Manager of Solutions Engineering at China Cache, will share advice on selecting tests suited to your goals, monitoring test environment with custom dashboards, and correlating data that shows the business impact of performance.

Published on
December 4, 2020
, updated on
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