- Mobile traffic at an all-time high across Europe
- Leading UK brands first to reach digital tipping point, with smartphones taking 50% share of traffic
- Financial services brands take 53% share of mobile traffic, the largest recorded
New data from Adobe Analytics Cloud reveals that marketers have never been better at delivering mobile experiences, as the smartphone becomes the device of choice for most activities. Across Europe, whilst desktop share of browser visits still dominates, it is on the decline in every country and industry as mobile continues to take its share.
These are the main findings of the Adobe Digital Insights (ADI)Europe Best of the Best 2016 Report, which leverages Adobe Analytics Cloud data to analyse the online performance of the top 20% of companies using Adobe Experience Cloud, plus a survey of over 5,000 consumers across Europe about their online habits.
Who’s winning the mobile traffic?
For the top-performing companies, an average of two-fifths of web traffic (41%) came via a smartphone in 2016. This is up substantially from 2015, where mobile accounted for a third of traffic (32%). These companies are also outpacing their peers by an average of 32% when it comes to mobile traffic. But British Best of the Best brands are leading the pack; on average across industries, mobile takes exactly half of browser visits.
In terms of the top 20% of companies, financial services has made the most progress – with 53% of online visits coming from a smartphone – followed by media and entertainment (52%), and retail (46%).
Taking an industry-wide glance, smartphones accounted for a third of European web visits (31%) in 2016. This marks an increase from 2015 where smartphones took a 22% stake. In comparison, desktop accounted for three-fifths of browser traffic (58%), down from 65% in 2015.
Smartphones are consumer’s preferred device
The insights from Adobe Analytics Cloud come at a time when consumers have never wanted more from mobile experiences. When surveyed about their favourite devices, over half of consumers (57%) preferred to use a smartphone over other devices when completing tasks in 2016, up from 51% in 2015.
For every online activity, smartphones have gained in popularity in the last year, with the biggest mobile-first tasks being checking directions – where three quarters of consumers (73%) use a smartphone – followed by reading and replying to email (70%) and checking social media accounts (65%). Online shopping has made the biggest strides; only a third (37%) named eCommerce as a mobile first activity in 2015, which increased to nearly half (45%) in 2016.
“From checking their bank balances to their inboxes, smartphones are now the go-to device. Best of the Best brands are starting to take the lion’s share of mobile web traffic, but there’s more progress to be made. Brands should look to the financial services and retail industries, where the balance has been tipped, and embody their investment in building engaging, compelling mobile experiences”, David Burnand, Enterprise Marketing Director, Adobe EMEA commented.
The desktop contradiction
Despite mobile being the device of choice, the dominance of desktop traffic shows that there is a disconnect between what consumers want and what they actually do. Two thirds of consumers (64%) say mobile browsing is worse than desktop, and in response, over half of consumers (55%) report switching to one of the other 6.1 connected devices they own to complete tasks.
Adobe Analytics Cloud data also found that marketers are still struggling to make captive mobile audiences stay. Time spent on mobile sites is decreasing; 6.1 seconds on average were recorded in 2015, decreasing marginally to 5.9 seconds in 2016.
Stickiness – the percentage of traffic that stays and engages – remains higher on desktop than mobile; 34% of mobile browsers stay on a site after arrival (52% for Best of the Best brands), which rises to 46% on desktop (67% for Best of the Best brands). What’s more, desktop still leads the way when it comes to conversion rates; 2.4% of visitors make a purchase on desktop (rising to 4.4% for Best of the Best brands) whereas only 0.75% of smartphone visits result in a sale (1.4% for Best of the Best brands).
When asked about their biggest mobile browsing turn-offs, half of consumers (47%) cite slow mobile experiences as a frustration, two-fifths (40%) find smaller screens problematic, while a third (37%) find poor web design an annoyance.
“If the mobile experience doesn’t stack up, consumers will switch to a desktop site, or a competitor that offers a better experience,” continues Burnand. “While mobile traffic continues to grow, the desktop experience still matters hugely. Adobe Analytics Cloud data shows that businesses must delight consumers across channels to capture share of attention, and wallet. The experience must be fluid across devices; consumers don’t want to know a brand one way on mobile and in another on desktop. They want a unified experience, and they want brands to have a singular view of them too.
Adobe Digital Insights: Best of the Best Methodology
The Best of the Best 2016 report refers to companies using the Adobe Marketing Cloud who rank in the Top 20% of fellow Adobe clients in their industry on various key performance metrics. It is called the Best of the Best because Adobe Marketing Cloud customers are already ahead of the masses through their investment in excellence.
The ADI consists of aggregated and anonymous data from 100 billion visits to 3,000+ websites in Europe during the 2016 calendar year gathered via Adobe Analytics and Adobe Social. Country averages are based on the industries analysed.
Between 4-15 May, we talked to over 1000 consumers in each of the five EMEA countries (UK, France, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands) about what devices they own and how they use these devices throughout their daily activities. We also touched on topics such as social media use and what drives their mobile behavior, to better understand the trends we see in the Best of the Best data.
Airbus CEO urges trade war ceasefire, easing of COVID travel bans
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) – The head of European planemaker Airbus called on Saturday for a “ceasefire” in a transatlantic trade war over aircraft subsidies, saying tit-for-tat tariffs on planes and other goods had aggravated damage from the COVID-19 crisis.
Washington progressively imposed import duties of 15% on Airbus jets from 2019 after a prolonged dispute at the World Trade Organization, and the EU responded with matching tariffs on Boeing jets a year later. Wine, whisky and other goods are also affected.
“This dispute, which is now an old dispute, has put us in a lose-lose situation,” Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said in a radio interview.
“We have ended up in a situation where wisdom would normally dictate that we have a ceasefire and resolve this conflict,” he told France Inter.
Boeing was not immediately available for comment.
Brazil, which has waged separate battles with Canada over subsidies for smaller regional jets, on Thursday dropped its own complaint against Ottawa and called for a global peace deal between producing nations on support for aerospace.
Faury said the dispute with Boeing was particularly damaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has badly hit air travel and led to travel restrictions or border closures. He expressed particular concern about widening bans within Europe.
“We are extremely frustrated by the barriers that restrict personal movement and it is almost impossible today to travel in Europe by plane, even domestically,” he said.
“The priority no. 1 for countries in general is to reopen frontiers and allow people to travel on the basis of tests and then eventually vaccinations.”
The comments come as businesses increase pressure on governments to reopen economies as coronavirus vaccine roll-outs gather pace across Europe.
France has defended recently introduced border restrictions, saying they will help the government avoid a new lockdown and stay in force until at least the end of February.
Germany installed border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria last Sunday, drawing protest from Austria and concerns about supply-chain disruptions.
Berlin calls the move a temporary measure of last resort.
Poland said on Saturday it had not ruled out imposing restrictions at the country’s borders with Slovakia and the Czech Republic due to rising COVID-19 cases.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
Why a predictable cold snap crippled the Texas power grid
By Tim McLaughlin and Stephanie Kelly
(Reuters) – As Texans cranked up their heaters early Monday to combat plunging temperatures, a record surge of electricity demand set off a disastrous chain reaction in the state’s power grid.
Wind turbines in the state’s northern Panhandle locked up. Natural gas plants shut down when frozen pipes and components shut off fuel flow. A South Texas nuclear reactor went dark after a five-foot section of uninsulated pipe seized up. Power outages quickly spread statewide – leaving millions shivering in their homes for days, with deadly consequences.
It could have been far worse: Before dawn on Monday, the state’s grid operator was “seconds and minutes” away from an uncontrolled blackout for its 26 million customers, its CEO has said. Such a collapse occurs when operators lose the ability to manage the crisis through rolling blackouts; in such cases, it can take weeks or months to fully restore power to customers.
Monday was one of the state’s coldest days in more than a century – but the unprecedented power crisis was hardly unpredictable after Texas had experienced a similar, though less severe, disruption during a 2011 cold snap. Still, Texas power producers failed to adequately winter-proof their systems. And the state’s grid operator underestimated its need for reserve power capacity before the crisis, then moved too slowly to tell utilities to institute rolling blackouts to protect against a grid meltdown, energy analysts, traders and economists said.
Early signs of trouble came long before the forced outages. Two days earlier, for example, the grid suddenly lost 539 megawatts (MW) of power, or enough electricity for nearly 108,000 homes, according to operational messages disclosed by the state’s primary grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
The crisis stemmed from a unique confluence of weaknesses in the state’s power system.
Texas is the only state in the continental United States with an independent and isolated grid. That allows the state to avoid federal regulation – but also severely limits its ability to draw emergency power from other grids. ERCOT also operates the only major U.S. grid that does not have a capacity market – a system that provides payments to operators to be on standby to supply power during severe weather events.
After more than 3 million ERCOT customers lost power in a February 2011 freeze, federal regulators recommended that ERCOT prepare for winter with the same urgency as it does the peak summer season. They also said that, while ERCOT’s reserve power capacity looked good on paper, it did not take into account that many generation units could get knocked offline by freezing weather.
“There were prior severe cold weather events in the Southwest in 1983, 1989, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corp staff summarized after investigating the state’s 2011 rolling blackouts. “Extensive generator failures overwhelmed ERCOT’s reserves, which eventually dropped below the level of safe operation.”
ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko did not comment in detail about the causes of the power crisis but said the grid’s leadership plans to re-evaluate the assumptions that go into its forecasts.
The freeze was easy to see coming, said Jay Apt, co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center.
“When I read that this was a black-swan event, I just have to wonder whether the folks who are saying that have been in this business long enough that they forgot everything, or just came into it,” Apt said. “People need to recognize that this sort of weather is pretty common.”
This week’s cold snap left 4.5 million ERCOT customers without power. More than 14.5 million Texans endured a related water-supply crisis as pipes froze and burst. About 65,000 customers remained without power as of Saturday afternoon, even as temperatures started to rise, according to website PowerOutage.US.
State health officials have linked more than two dozen deaths to the power crisis. Some died from hypothermia or possible carbon monoxide poisoning caused by portable generators running in basements and garages without enough ventilation. Officials say they suspect the death count will rise as more bodies are discovered.
THIN POWER RESERVE
In the central Texas city of Austin, the state capital, the minimum February temperature usually falls between 42 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 9 degrees Celsius). This past week, temperatures fell as low as 6 degrees Fahrenheit (-14 degrees Celsius).
In November, ERCOT assured that the grid was prepared to handle such a dire scenario.
“We studied a range of potential risks under both normal and extreme conditions, and believe there is sufficient generation to adequately serve our customers,” said ERCOT’s manager of resource adequacy, Pete Warnken, in a report that month.
Warnken could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
Under normal winter conditions, ERCOT forecast it would have about 16,200 MW of power reserves. But under extreme conditions, it predicted a reserve cushion of only about 1,350 MW. That assumed only 23,500 MW of generation outages. During the peak of this week’s crisis, more than 30,000 MW was forced off the grid.
Other U.S. grid operators maintain a capacity market to supply extra power in extreme conditions – paying operators on an ongoing basis, whether they produce power or not. Capacity market auctions determine, three years in advance, the price that power generators receive in exchange for being on emergency standby.
Instead, ERCOT relies on a wholesale electricity market, where free market pricing provides incentives for generators to provide daily power and to make investments to ensure reliability in peak periods, according to economists. The system relied on the theory that power plants should make high profits when energy demand and prices soar – providing them ample money to make investments in, for example, winterization. The Texas legislature restructured the state’s electric market in 1999.
Since 2010, ERCOT’s reserve margin – the buffer between generation capacity versus forecasted demand – has dropped to about 10% from about 20%. This has put pressure on generators during demand spikes, making the grid less flexible, according to North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonprofit regulator.
That thin margin for error set off alarms early Monday morning among energy traders and analysts as they watched a sudden drop in the electrical frequency of the Texas grid. One analyst compared it to watching the pulse of a hospital patient drop to life-threatening levels.
Too much of a drop is catastrophic because it would trigger automatic relay switches to disconnect power sources from the grid, setting off uncontrolled blackouts statewide. Dan Jones, an energy analyst at Monterey LLC, watched from his home office in Delaware as the grid’s frequency dropped quickly toward the point that would trigger the automatic shutdowns.
“If you’re not in control, and you are letting the equipment do it, that’s just chaos,” Jones said.
By Sunday afternoon about 3:15 p.m. (CST), ERCOT’s control room signaled it had run out of options to boost electric generation to match the soaring demand. Operators issued a warning that there was “no market solution” for the projected shortage, according to control room messages published by ERCOT on its website.
Adam Sinn, president of Houston-based energy trading firm Aspire Commodities, said ERCOT waited far too long to start telling utilities to cut customers’ power to guard against a grid meltdown. The problems, he said, were readily apparent several days before Monday.
“ERCOT was letting the system get weaker and weaker and weaker,” Sinn said in an interview. “I was thinking: Holy shit, what is this grid operator doing? He has to cut load.”
Sinn said he started texting his friends on Sunday night, warning them to expect widespread outages.
‘SECONDS AND MINUTES’
Early Monday morning, one of the largest sources of electricity in the state – the unit 1 reactor at the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station – stopped producing power after the small section of pipe froze in temperatures that averaged 17 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius). The grid lost access to 1,350 MW of nuclear power – enough to power about 270,000 homes – after automatic sensors detected the frozen pipe and protectively shut down the reactor, said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
About 2:30 a.m. (CST), the South Plains Electric Cooperative in Lubbock said it received a phone call from ERCOT to cut power to its customers. Inside the ERCOT control room, staff members scrambled to call utilities and cooperatives statewide to tell them to do the same, according to operational messages disclosed by the grid operator.
Three days later, ERCOT Chief Executive Bill Magness acknowledged that the grid operator had only narrowly avoided the calamity of uncontrolled blackouts.
“If we hadn’t taken action,” he said on Thursday, “it was seconds and minutes (away), given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time that the demand was still going up.”
(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin and Stephanie Kelly; additional reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot)
UK could declare Brexit ‘water wars’ – The Telegraph
(Reuters) – Britain could restrict imports of European mineral water and several food products under retaliatory measures being considered by ministers over Brussels’ refusal to end its blockade on British shellfish, the Telegraph reported.
Senior government sources pointed to potential restrictions on the importing of mineral water and seed potatoes, the report said.
(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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