In the Black Friday/Cyber Monday Bonanza, Top U.S. Retail Websites Perform Well, Mobile Remains a Challenge
Website and mobile site experiences that are fast, reliable and consistent can play a huge role in driving online conversions and revenues, particularly during heavy sales periods like the holidays. A recent survey from Gomez, a website monitoring firm, found that 78 percent of consumers will migrate to a competitor’s site due to poor performance at peak times.
Gomez recently developed its Retail User Experience (UX) Index, which provided a real-time pulse on users’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their online shopping experiences during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period. The UX Index compared the aggregate performance of the top 15 websites in retail and the top 15 mobile sites (the 15 largest U.S. retailers with mobile sites) against historical performance baselines set during a nonpeak period.
Gomez’s key observations from the seven-day measurement period (Nov. 24 - Nov. 30) included the following:
Top 15 websites: These websites displayed strong performance throughout the measurement period, including the long weekend, with UX Index ratings slightly higher in comparison to the historical baseline. This validates the top 15 retailers’ year-round focus on optimizing site design and infrastructure for this peak buying period.
Top 15 mobile sites: The mobile web provided the greatest challenge for this group, particularly on Cyber Monday and into the following Tuesday. During this time, a majority of their mobile sites experienced moderate or more significant decreases in performance against the historical baseline, pointing to a decrease in user satisfaction.
Accordingly, Gomez’s top recommendations for proactively improving website and mobile site performance under heavy loads include the following:
- Never underestimate the significance of even the slightest performance degradation. Industry data shows that a one second delay in speed can reduce online conversions by 7 percent. As consumers slowly open their wallets this season, retailers will be competing for every online dollar. Milliseconds count when you’re dealing with time-pressed consumers.
- Gauge performance under various load sizes from the real-world perspective of users, which helps verify that all elements of a complex web application (including those delivered from third-party sources beyond your firewall, like ratings and reviews and shopping carts) can effectively scale. Understanding the user's perspective can also help you determine if speed-enhancing services like a content delivery network may be in order.
- Benchmark against proven performance leaders. The top performers in Gomez’s UX Index — Dell, Williams-Sonoma, QVC, Best Buy and Sears for websites; and QVC, Newegg, Dell, Williams-Sonoma and OfficeMax for mobile sites — are defining “good” online experiences and setting user expectations this holiday season. Benchmarks can help you determine how strong your performance needs to be, while providing a context for ongoing performance optimization efforts.
- Optimize your mobile site for speed. Most users of retail mobile sites view speed as more important than feature-richness when it comes to assessing the quality of experience. As you streamline web content for your mobile site, consider doing away with applications and features that consumers aren’t apt to use while on the go (e.g., ratings and reviews). Likewise, before adding any “heavy” content like graphics and product images, assess the performance impact from the real-world perspective of mobile users and decide if any tradeoffs in speed are worth it.
Overall, online retailers should be commended for a solid start to the holiday season. However, further spikes in traffic can be expected as we get deeper into the season and closer to the actual holiday. Leverage the upcoming days and weeks to build upon and improve your website and mobile site performance, helping to enhance and protect brand, customer satisfaction and revenues at this critical time of year.
Matthew Poepsel is vice president of Performance Strategies at Gomez. Matthew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.