3 Ways E-Tailers Can Make Their Sites Faster
There was a time when retailers could only impact their bottom line during the course of normal business hours. Now in the era of "e-everything," retailers enjoy the ringing of cash registers 24/7. From desktops to mobile devices, online stores cash in on consumers’ insatiable appetites to shop wherever and whenever. This trend helped brick-and-mortar retailers expand their reach. However, it's also become an ongoing challenge, fueling the compelling argument as to why companies, particularly online retailers, should care about serving faster web pages to their users.
The magic number to keep a visitor from abandoning your web page is just three seconds. You have less than three seconds to engage visitors, whether your goal is to serve content to as many people as possible or to convert browsers into buyers.
Countless studies have found an irrefutable connection between load times and key performance indicators, ranging from page views to revenue. For instance, big-box retailer Wal-Mart experienced up to a 2 percent conversion increase on its website for every one second of speed improvement. When auto parts retailer AutoAnything.com cut its web page load times by 50 percent, it experienced a 13 percent increase in sales. In a world where every second counts, retailers can hurt their users’ experience — and ultimately their own bottom line — if they don't meet expectations of how long it takes for a page to load.
According to a 1999 study by Zona Research, the time an average user was willing to wait for a page to load was eight seconds. Seven years later, that number decreased to four seconds. By 2010, 57 percent of online shoppers would abandon a page after waiting three seconds for it to load.
What makes a page slower? Performance culprits are a page's size and complexity, which typically translates to slower load times. Currently, of the top 100 retail websites as ranked by Alexa.com, the median page is 1354KB in size and contains 108 resource requests. Images comprise 50 percent to 60 percent of the average page's total weight. Of the top 100 sites, 43 percent failed to compress their site's images, which is a core optimization technique.
However, not all hope is lost. There are ways that you can take charge of your website's performance by implementing a proactive approach to front-end optimization. Here are three tips that you can easily deploy to help shave off precious seconds of load time:
2. Defer rendering "below the fold." Ensure that the user sees the page quicker by delaying the loading and rendering of any content that's below the initially visible area (aka, below the fold). To eliminate the need to reflow content after the remainder of the page is loaded, replace images initially with placeholder tags that specify the correct height and width of the image.
3. Rethink the design and location of call-to-action (CTA) links in feature graphics. While the accepted design convention has been to position CTA buttons at the bottom of feature banners, this convention doesn't always serve the best interests of users or site owners, as shoppers must wait for the image to fully render before taking their next action on the page. The simplest solution: reposition the CTA outside the slow-rendering banner.
If you care about delivering a faster user experience to your customers, then look to the fastest online retailers for insight. The most high-performing sites contain smaller, leaner pages, understand the critical rendering path, and know what resources to defer.
Kent Alstad is the vice president of acceleration at Radware, a provider of integrated application delivery/load balancing and application and network security solutions for virtual and cloud data centers.