Focusing on optimizing customers' digital experience where it matters most will lead to higher revenue. That requires real-time measurement.

Seemantini Chincholkaregree connection3rd Seemantini has a account Data Scientist at Akamai Technologies

Seemantini Chincholkar,
data scientist at Akamai Technologies

Viktoriya Reyzelman

Vicki Reyzelman, strategic engagement manager, Akamai Technologies

The holiday shopping season has always been important for retailers, and this year it is even more so. The uncertainty brought about by the global pandemic compounds the typical challenges to attract customers and maximize conversion opportunities. The current environment has moved commerce online at unprecedented speed, with up to 30.0% of global retail sales using digital channels.

Top-performing retailers will rely on real-user monitoring (RUM) to better understand their customers’ digital journeys and gain competitive advantage. Focusing on optimizing their customers’ digital experience where it matters the most will lead to higher revenue. 

This article will explore how several real-user monitoring analyses can help retailers predict customer behavior, increase revenue, and optimize digital performance in Q4 and beyond.


Optimize digital experience to exceed customer expectations

Customer expectations are rising for digital channels and measures such as site speed, stability, and delivery times. Retailers should start by designing web pages optimized for digital shopping. For example, by ensuring that their customers can interact with the page before it loads all the content, retailers can keep the user engaged and reduce site abandonment.

Based on Akamai’s research, increasing page load speeds to best-in-class levels is also paramount. The ideal load time for peak conversions is no more than 2.7 seconds—and every 100-millisecond (ms) delay above that can reduce conversion by up to seven percent. To provide the best user experience, retailers need to ensure that all digital channels load fast and offer consistent services (such as payment options) and actions (such as shopping carts updated in-real time) across devices.  

RUM monitoring can help retailers quickly pinpoint and address the resources that are impacting the user experience. Identifying scripts, images and third parties that delay time to interactive for the page is the initial step in this analysis. It is also essential to focus on third-party resources in optimizing performance. Retailers must track where the third-party domains are served from and how the scripts impact site performance. Retailers also need to ensure that the script is not blocking the rest of the web page from loading or acting as a single point of failure. By mitigating third-party script impact, retailers will ensure a flawless customer experience.

Improve site performance with conversion rate measurement

Retailers’ success depends on amazing customer experience. It is critical to focus on the performance of those pages that the customer engages with to maximize conversion. “Conversion analysis” allows retailers to see exactly where that performance is critical for customers to complete their transactions (i.e., make a purchase). The conversion rate is the most vital metric after revenue for retail.


Making digital improvements to increase the conversion rate is a key objective and ensures seamless digital experience by focusing on the purchase workflow and eliminating the bottlenecks. 

How do retailers know what leads to an improvement in conversion rate? Retailers can start with understanding traffic patterns on the website and ensuring user experience on those pages is seamless. For example, as shown in Fig. 1, retailers can analyze their traffic patterns and look for trends of pages with higher traffic that may have a higher impact on conversion. 

 Top pages by average daily volume across some of the major retailer

Fig. 1: Top pages by average daily volume across some of the major retailers. The top three types of pages by daily volume are: product, search result, and shop.

By analyzing traffic pattern information, retailers will gain insight into users’ browsing and purchase behaviors. A conversion impact score algorithm will assign a score to each page group based on user activity. This will identify which pages have the most impact on conversion rate and help retailers prioritize improvements on the pages that drive the greatest revenue. Retailers should conduct a monthly conversion impact score analysis to drive conversion and improve revenue for the business.

Determine next steps with ‘what if’ analysis 

How do retailers determine which optimizations will yield the improvement they are looking to achieve? When tuning a user experience, it’s natural to wonder, “what if” I change a given aspect of the experience? Will it result in any demonstrable change in the visitor’s behavior? Implementing predictive analytics in your tuning regimen, which looks at real-user data and then models the impact specific performance optimizations will have, is a great way to test a hypothesis before pushing changes to the live environment. 


Retailers should consider using real-user monitoring to tune their analysis and metrics. Synthetic monitoring is not designed to consider real-world conditions. “What if analysis” allows retailers to use their current customers’ data to improve user engagement. They should conduct the analysis monthly to maximize their conversion rates.

A "what if" analysis for a leading retailer.

Fig. 2: A “what if” analysis for a leading retailer. In this example, by decreasing the page’s load time by 326 ms, the conversion rate becomes 3.22%.

Conversion rate is not a static measurement; it fluctuates based on external factors: your offers and promotions, your customer mix of loyal vs. new customers and the time your customers spend on your site. It is critical to continue to evaluate your conversion not just a point in time but over several years to establish trends for the holiday season and beyond. Looking at the traffic numbers and conversion rates will allow retailers to see the complete picture of their business performance. Tracking conversion trends year-over-year is critical to understanding the seasonality of the retailer’s business and when to run marketing promotions for the biggest revenue impact.

Year-over-year conversion analysis across multiple retailers.

Fig. 3: Year-over-year conversion analysis across multiple retailers. Year-over-year 2020 saw a higher conversion rate in June/July for most retailers and this trend is expected to continue into next year.

With the uncertainty brought by the pandemic, retailers can help improve their holiday results by focusing on RUM. Take the opportunity to review customer behavior, tune the site performance to maximize every user’s experience, and monitor and evaluate ways to continuously tweak site performance elements.


Retailers should look for vendors that offer real-time monitoring tools to help guide them through the process and use the integrated tuning capabilities to address both real-users and bots. They can maximize their turnover potential. Real-user data is the defense against retention drops, quick abandonments and crashed sessions. By gleaning insights into real-user experiences, retailers can respond with agility, improve their omnichannel experience, and strengthen customer engagement this holiday season.

Akamai Technologies provides content delivery network services to 305 of the 1,000 leading online retailers in North America as ranked in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.