What do data centers have to do with Christmas? For many years now, the festive period has signaled the beginning of online shopping extravaganzas, further expanded with the rise in popularity of Black Friday beyond the USA and the recent newcomer, Cyber Monday. This year, Adobe Analytics revealed that Cyber Monday 2022 brought in $35.3 billion of revenue in the US, of which $11.3 billion was in online sales, smashing previous e-commerce records. Can we hope to see this success continue throughout the festive period?
This time of year has always brought an influx of website traffic and online sales, thus generating more work for the data centers behind the scenes. But after the last few unpredictable years, will Christmas 2022 look different from previous years? What data trends can we expect to continue, and which may recede in the current climate?
Data Centers: The Force Behind Online Christmas Shopping
Data center network infrastructures support the entire customer journey, from data-driven marketing campaigns and online customer service to SaaS (software-as-a-service) CRM solutions and even cloud-based shipping and supply chain systems. If a data center in the online retailer’s ecosystem experiences an outage, the potential ramifications are far-reaching and could result in significant losses in revenue and customer satisfaction.
During the pandemic, there was a sharp spike in online shopping. Many high street shops were shut to the general public for a long time, and even when they reopened, footfall was limited compared to what it was before.
In terms of pre-pandemic sales, according to the Centre for Retail Research, online shopping accounted for 19.2% of retail sales in the UK, equating to £75.478 billion in 2019.
Fast forward to the first Covid festive period in the winter of 2020, and a steady rise in stats was clear, where the online retail spending of the nation rose to £107.330 billion.
For Christmas 2021, the UK was officially out of lockdown but still had many restrictive measures that limited how many people could be in contact with one another. These same restrictions, such as compulsory face masks in shops, combined with fears over the new Omnicom variant, meant that online shopping statistics were still on the rise, with a market share of 28.9% (a spend of £119.640 billion).
You can find out more about the online retail statistics for other countries on their website: Online Retail : UK, Europe & N. America : The Centre For Retail ResearchOnline Retail : UK, Europe & N. America : The Centre For Retail Research
While some would expect 2022 to continue along this growth trajectory, the cost-of-living crisis might dampen people’s spending this year. With inflation the worst it has been for many countries in nearly half a century and gas and electricity prices soaring worldwide, many may choose to tighten their purse strings when it comes to online Christmas shopping (and spending in general) this year.
Local Strikes Impacting the Way We Order and Who We Order From
In the UK, ongoing issues such as rail and postal strikes are set to continue in the run-up to Xmas, so it only makes sense that many people may turn to services like Amazon Prime for their deliveries. In addition, Amazon allows a buyer to purchase from multiple sellers in one interface, and for Prime account holders, this doesn’t incur additional delivery costs. Private courier firms will likely see a sizeable increase in website traffic, orders, etc. Here’s hoping they have modular networks that cope with any sudden influx, given how busy the festive period can be!
How Have Things Changed Since Covid?
Data trends and how we shop online changed dramatically over the past three years. With significant changes to remote and hybrid work, education, entertainment, and leisure, data creation and demands have gone through the roof. Whilst some countries worldwide are experiencing a fresh wave of lockdowns and restrictions as we enter the festive period of 2022, how much have things changed?
Video Calls Over the Christmas Period
Video calls weren’t hugely popular before the pandemic, but Covid-19 changed that overnight. Most of us relied on video calls throughout the year for working remotely, but they became a lifeline at Christmas, enabling us to keep in touch with our loved ones. It was crucial to many people’s mental health and a vital lifeline for combatting the loneliness and isolation many felt during that time.
Cloud-based video conferencing service Zoom released figures that showed the platform hosted 3.3 trillion meetings in 2020, compared to 97 billion annual meetings the year before. Microsoft Teams also saw a steep increase from 75 million daily active users in April 2020 to 115 million just six months later – an increase of 53%.
Companies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams rely on hyperscale computing to cope with sudden increases in demand over a short period, allowing them to scale their network bandwidth to meet demand at a moment’s notice.
As for personal communications, many people now prefer having a quick video chat with their loved ones, as it still gives you face-to-face interaction. In fact, a study by Sky Mobile found that 84% of respondents in the UK preferred video calls to phone calls.
Gaming During the Festive Season
The video game industry experienced a considerable boost from the pandemic as people stayed home. Gaming became an even more popular pastime than it was before. Hollywood Reporter revealed that gaming rose by 29% in the UK, and 17% of those surveyed said they have been playing more with friends online since the pandemic began.
This surge in online gaming and the associated data consumption kept data centers busy, further supplemented by the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Is it a trend slowing down? The answer is not really, in fact, UK gamers spent an average of 7.17 hours weekly on video games in January 2021. With advances in AI technology and immersive games on the horizon, gaming statistics will likely continue to increase.
Video Streaming Christmas Specials
What would Christmas be without a festive film? Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+ typically fight for market share around this time of year. Netflix saw a growth of 37% in 2020 and added 26 million paid new subscribers in the first two quarters of the year alone, representing the company’s biggest growth spurt. Even in 2022, video streaming continues to go from strength to strength, the ever-increasing bandwidth supported by data center networks.
This year when you sit down to watch Elf on Netflix, open a present purchased on Amazon, attend a virtual get together over Zoom, or play a game of FIFA with your friends online, raise a glass of eggnog to the data center networks, designers, engineers, and installers who make it all possible.
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