Slower load times can produce 10pc decrease in conversions: report

Despite all of the deals and promotions proffered by retailers this Black Friday, a new report from Dynatrace claims that many of their online channels suffer from bloated edifices that slow down performance, especially in their mobile offerings.

The performance management company reported that several retailers’ mobile channels had struggled on Black Friday due to what they call “exceedingly complex” applications, which ran into issues as varied as backend issues to network connectivity problems. However, there were a few bright spots, providing the industry a model to adapt to for streamlining applications.

“Our year-over-year analysis found that as retailers compete to deliver richer and more engaging experiences, their websites have become heavier, more complex and more interdependent on third parties,” said David Jones, director of sales engineering and APM evangelist at Dynatrace. “Since so much of this application complexity lives on the server side, we’ve seen many retailers direct the bulk of their time working to optimize performance.

“Additionally, we’ve seen an increase in retailers adopting container technology on the server side to improve and streamline performance and scalability,” he said. “Apple and Costco are two great examples of retailers that have gotten it right.

“Based on our recent study, they both rank in the top 5 fastest U.S. retail sites, with fast load times and minimal site complexity.”

Simple sites
Dynatrace’s report also included findings that confirm the mobile platform’s uptake, especially during high stakes shopping weekends such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As so much retail traffic shifts mediums, it will be more important for brands to shift budget accordingly.

“Recent reports predict that mobile devices are expected to eclipse desktop digital shopping visits this holiday season by 53 percent,” Mr. Jones said. “And while web performance for the top U.S. retail sites has generally improved, mobile is seeing a general slowdown in performance due to an increase in page weight and number of third parties.

“The heavier the page, the longer it takes to for the data to transfer and load,” he said. “This can also become expensive for the consumer as more data is drained from their monthly plans.

“This increase in complexity could have a significant impact on consumers looking to do their holiday shopping on mobile devices this year.”

 

Winners and losers
Black Friday also turned in some valuable analytics for Dynatrace, which named the platforms that were best equipped to perform under the heavy load the weekend offered.

Neiman Marcus, Dell and Apple abided by expectations and remained the top overall online performers this Black Friday according to Dynatrace, based on assessing the average total page load time.

And for mobile retailers, the top three spots looked familiar as well: Apple, Dell and, perhaps unsurprisingly, controversial multi-level marketing company Amway.

The numbers have not come back for today’s Cyber Monday offering, but considering the slow atrophy of bricks-and-mortar retailing during the holiday season, it will not be surprising if Dynatrace’s findings run parallel for both days.

 

Many analysts had already predicted that this year’s holiday shopping season would be a watershed year for mobile (see story).

“Brands and consumers should be aware of the risk site complexity poses for both the online shopping experience and the reputation and potential revenue for retailers,” Mr. Jones said. “For brands, it’s important that they understand the issues that could arise due to the increase in third party hosts connecting to their sites.

“The holiday shopping season is a time when digital performance matters most. Even a half-second increase in site speed can impact conversions by 11 percent, so retailers need to be sure their sites and apps don’t buckle under the pressure of peak online holiday shopping.”