Sluggish third-party components, overburdened APIs and servers ill-equipped for peak traffic loads are among leading issues that could threaten website performance for retailers this holiday season, according to a study from digital experience monitoring company Catchpoint.
Other factors in poor performance include web pages weighed down with too many graphic components, and the failure of some retailers to look beyond national-average load times to inspect performance at more regional levels where problems can exist, Catchpoint stated.
After retail website performance problems marred the Black Friday 2017 shopping period, Catchpoint tapped data gained from its ongoing monitoring of hundreds of retail desktop and mobile sites in the U.S. and the world to create a list of the top five technical issues most likely to cause slow load times or outages this holiday season.
At least four retailers, including big names Macy's and Lowe's, suffered website outages at different points during the Black Friday weekend last year. Such outages unfortunately have become something of an expectation for major shopping events and sales. For example, Macy's experienced site outages two years in a row related to Black Friday sales, and even undisputed e-commerce champ Amazon suffered site crashes during Prime Day this July.
Catchpoint highlighted five of the biggest problem factors — slow third-party apps, poor-performing APIs, overweight web pages, lack of server scalability, and the tendency of retailers not to drill down to monitor regional performance. None of these issues should come as a surprise to retailers. For example, server scalability issues were reported as a possible cause of the Amazon Prime Day outage, and a study from Retail Systems Research and Yottaa noted an abundance of third-party apps on some retail sites was causing "disturbingly slow" load times.
While retailers are aware of such issues, they may not believe they can afford to have simpler sites with fewer third-party components, graphic features and APIs. They may still be taking a kitchen sink approach to trying to engage their shoppers, loading their websites and individual web pages with everything and anything they think shoppers might need in order to research, initiate and complete purchases.
Retailers can hardly be blamed for thinking that way, especially when Black Friday comes around. They may even feel that there are so many sales opportunities to be had during such events that they can afford an outage, as long as they keep it brief, because shoppers are compelled to buy one way or another during these periods. But, not every sale lost comes back to them as a sale made once they get the power turned back on. Each slow-loading page, poor-performing payment API and site crash can take a customer's opinion of a retailer down a notch.
With another Black Friday just over three weeks away, it may be time for retailers to rethink website strategy and performance management instead of just hoping shoppers don't get spurned.