Slow is the New Down
Every e-tailer fears its website going down, however, a website that’s been reduced to a snail’s pace because of a high volume of traffic can almost be more damaging. Today’s always-on consumers expect lightning-fast connections and load times, as if everyone can deliver the same user experience as Netflix. In fact, a study from Kissmetrics shows that 40 percent of visitors will abandon a web page if it takes any longer than three seconds for its content to load.
Further research has revealed that nearly 80 percent of shoppers are unlikely to come back to your site if they deem its performance to be too slow; and more than half claim that quick page loading is a major factor in their brand loyalty. A slow website is never as obvious as one that’s down, however. Companies can be blissfully unaware that they’re frustrating and turning away potential customers, inadvertently causing irreparable damage to their brand. And while moving to the cloud is the obvious choice to improve a website’s performance and scalability, it needs to be done in the right way.
Contrary to what people tend to assume, building an e-commerce site and its applications in the cloud won’t guarantee that it scales automatically. For example, some cloud providers offer dynamic scaling, but this is really only a set of policies for when a deployment scales up and down. Promising improved flexibility in deployments, these services can take much of the guess work out of the process, reducing the need to predict and manually bring additional resources online. However, while these implementations can work in some situations, their reactive nature means they don’t scale up until there's already a problem or a pre-set capacity limit has been exceeded. This won’t help when your visitors are frustrated with load times, but your back-end systems haven’t registered that there’s a problem. E-commerce IT managers need to find ways to predict traffic surges so they can scale appropriately, rather than waiting around until consumers start complaining (or just never return again).
Another commonly overlooked concern with the cloud is where your deployments and virtual servers are actually stored. Companies should look at all options for cloud providers, and even hosting in different regions. E-commerce shoppers can come from all over the globe. According to a 2015 PayPal study of more than 23,200 consumers in 29 countries, 35 percent claim to have shopped “cross-border” in 2015.
Just as important as scalability is optimizing web pages for the fastest, smoothest customer experience. This is trickier for online retailers, as their dynamic inventory and varying demographics require that every visitor see something different. Compounding this problem is the rise of mobile shoppers, with more than 25 percent of all e-commerce sales last year coming from people using their smartphones. Savvy retailers need to build a content delivery network on their back end that delivers custom mixes of content to individual shoppers. Every customer wants their online experience to be unique and satisfactory.
Furthermore, it’s just as unlikely that a loss in online revenue will be buoyed by an uptick of in-store purchases. A new study from UPS revealed that online purchases of non-grocery items surpassed in-store purchases by a slim 51 percent to 49 percent. While this difference seems negligible at first glance, it represents a crucial tipping point. Website visitors are an increasingly crucial part of retailers’ revenue and future success.
Sonal Puri is the CEO of Webscale, an integrated web application delivery solution that provides infinite scalability, high performance, security and control in a single platform.
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