E-Commerce Performance is ‘Disturbingly Slow’
Online retailers face a constant tug-of-war between delivering rich, engaging experiences to shoppers and offering fast web performance across all devices. The problem is that many of the third-party applications that help improve shopper experience, such as live chat, personalization and customer recommendations, actually slow down performance.
In a new research study entitled, “E-Commerce Performance: What Works, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next?”, Retail Systems Research (RSR) took a look at this problem by evaluating 80 major retail websites on page speed performance as well as end user experience. The conclusion: retailers need both great online experiences AND fast web performance.
The study, which was sponsored by e-commerce solutions provider Yottaa, was conducted from April 2017 to May 2017. After assembling a list of 80 top retail sites, RSR tested the speed at which each retailer's desktop and mobile sites loaded, evaluated the ease with which a shopper could find a product, and identified what ancillary tools (e.g., product reviews, recommendations, personalization, live chat features, etc.), were provided to make the shopping journey more satisfying. The retailers were then ranked from 1 to 80 based on website performance and shopper experience.
"For retailers, much of the internal debate over rich online experience vs. fast web performance has focused on either cramming more and more capabilities into sites, no matter what impact that has on performance, or stripping out functions and features to make sure the site loads fast," said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR. "In today's competitive market, retailers cannot afford to make these trade-offs. Our report found there's a lot of room for retailers to improve performance and, by doing so, open up new opportunities to make digital channels truly differentiating and engaging at the same time."
Below are key findings from the report that illustrate the performance challenges that many e-commerce sites face today:
- E-commerce site performance is disturbingly slow: The rule of thumb for e-commerce site performance is if it takes more than three seconds to load, you risk consumers leaving due to slow performance (and lose revenue as a result). In its report, RSR found that time-to-complete load times for the 80 retailers systemically underperformed customer expectations, averaging 9.5 seconds on mobile and 16.6 seconds on desktop. Studies have shown that every second of web latency results in a 7 percent loss in conversion.
- Third-party applications build great experiences, but hide a darker side: Retailers in the study used an average of 70 third-party e-commerce applications on their websites. These third-party partners may help them create a richer shopping experience, but they also require hundreds of additional requests to build each page. As a result, 50 percent to 75 percent of the time required to load a page is spent waiting on third parties, and websites with above average use of third parties (about 70) were 20 percent slower than those below the average.
- Several retailers’ sites "errored" out of the evaluation: Many of the retail sites tested by RSR featured content — usually images — that wouldn't load. This included one retailer whose entire site was totally unavailable. The homepage for this site featured a message that read, “We’re usually awesome at this. Please don’t refresh your browser. You’ll be back in the flow shortly.”
Rich Stendardo is the CEO of Yottaa, a web and mobile optimization services company.