It’s a cloud-powered Christmas, with 51% of US and UK consumers surveyed doing at least half of their shopping online

Rackspace commissioned study provides business insight on how to satisfy savvy online shoppers during the cloudiest ever Christmas

London, UK – 25 November 2013 – With over half of the research respondents planning to do most of their Christmas shopping online, UK and US retailers stand to gain an enormous amount from this channel according to a new study from Rackspace® Hosting (NYSE: RAX), the open cloud company.

The Rackspace study of the 4,000 UK and US adults, shows, however, that more than half (55 per cent) of the shoppers surveyed experienced online frustrations last Christmas, with 44 per cent of this group abandoning their purchase, and 34 per cent trying a different website.

The top frustrations were cited as complicated check-out procedures (29 per cent), followed by slow-loading websites (25 per cent). This indicates that the share of the colossal Christmas purchase pudding each retailer will get is dependent on the online experience they provide customers.

Cloud-powered Christmas traditions

The Rackspace study also reveals that a massive 86 per cent of respondents intend to buy at least some element of their Christmas online – from gifts (69 per cent) to Christmas music and games (13 per cent) and travel tickets to see family or friends (14 per cent). This is often an evening pursuit for most users, with 52 per cent planning to shop at home in the evenings.

Yet, going online this festive season is not just about shopping: it’s now a firm part of people’s Christmas traditions. Even on Christmas Day, 65 per cent of respondents intend to go online to, for example, send season’s greetings to friends and family (31 per cent) and / or post pictures of their celebrations (21 per cent) using cloud-powered social media channels. Others will be playing online games (19 per cent), surfing the web (17 per cent) and / or watching on demand TV (12 per cent).  It’s a similar picture on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, with 62 per cent going online.

A merry mobile Christmas

This year almost one-fifth (18 per cent) of those surveyed will be shopping online using a tablet. This is a substantial increase from the 10 per cent who shopped in this way last year. Similarly, smartphone usage for online purchases is up from 10 per cent last year to 16 per cent this year.

Three out of every ten UK and US adults (30 per cent) are planning to give someone a connected device – such as a tablet or smartphone – for Christmas, and over a quarter (28 per cent) are expecting to receive a connected device. Just under half (43 per cent) will be giving a digital gift, with shopping vouchers most popular (30 per cent).

John Engates, CTO Rackspace, said: “Our study suggests that this may be the most connected Christmas ever. This means that all businesses with an online presence – not just retailers – need to ensure they have the hosting infrastructure and support in place to deal with inevitable traffic peaks over the entire festive season. Imagine the frustration if you are unable to shop at a certain website before Christmas, or use an app with your brand new tablet on Christmas Day. With so much to gain or lose over the festive season, it’s high time for businesses to ensure that such frustrations do not become unwelcome Christmas traditions.”

Vital preparations for retailers and other businesses to undertake now include:
•    Check and test capacity: To avoid website slowdown, e-tailers in particular should do a full audit of their web hosting environment to check if there is enough network connections and server space available to handle a high influx of web traffic.  They should also ‘load’ test websites by flooding them with a large volume and variety of requests, from simpler tasks like landing on the home page to key word searches, filling up baskets and checking-out. With 44 per cent of shoppers abandoning a purchase if they cannot quickly and easily use the website, e-tailers can’t afford for any system lag or unavailability.
•    Get support: Peak traffic demands over the Christmas shopping period and beyond will probably not happen during a 9 to 5 working day. The study found that 52 per cent of respondents will be shopping in the evenings, and 65 per cent will be online on Christmas day. Retailers need to have appropriate support to keep their website up and running whenever it’s needed.
•    Use a hybrid cloud: Testing may show that additional web capacity is required during high-traffic times. The public cloud is the ideal hosting environment for this as it offers unmatched scalability on a pay-as-you-go basis. Use it in combination with dedicated servers or private cloud in a ‘hybrid cloud’ to deliver optimal security, reliability and overall infrastructure performance.
•    Keep improving: After peak season dies down, review the performance of your website, analyse any downtime or other performance issues, and use this to fix any issues. The majority (56 per cent) of UK and US adults surveyed say that their main reason for shopping online is the convenience, so keeping it that way is crucial.

Notes to editors:

About the research:
The survey was conducted between the 21/10/2013 – 24/10/2013 by OnePoll. 2000 UK respondents were recruited online using screening questions to ensure that they celebrate Christmas before entering the survey.

The same process was carried out for 2000 respondents from the USA where we used our research partner to obtain the respondents from USA.

The full survey can be found at Merged Data.xlsx