Birchbox had the top-ranking e-commerce site in terms of overall website performance for the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the latest Shoppimon Online Health and Usability Index.
Among specific sectors, Talbot's had the highest score in apparel, followed by ASOS and Zappos. In beauty, Avon finished second to Birchbox, and Sephora came in third. Among department stores, Sears scored highest, followed by Marks & Spencer and Walmart.
The retail sector performed well as a whole during the quarter, and Shoppimon suggested that increasing investment in site performance and speed optimization by some of the top-ranking e-commerce sites may have increased holiday shopping season revenue by as much as $1.5 billion.
To compile this report, Shoppimon used an AI-based system to make nearly 1 million visits to 117 retail e-commerce websites during the fourth quarter, mimicking what a real user would be doing on the course toward a purchase, while also noting site speed, technical glitches and other issues, ultimately scoring each site on a 100-point scale. The highest score, by Birchbox, was 99.59.
One of the other noteworthy observations from the study was that many of the best-performing websites were custom-built sites, as opposed to being created with third-party e-commerce platforms from companies like Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, Magento and IBM. (Of the sites built on those platforms, Adobe built sites were the only ones to average a higher score than custom-built sites.)
Overall, e-commerce players appear to be paying more attention to overall website performance, realizing that a slow site could potentially cause shoppers to abandon their e-carts. Shoppimon noted the increasing investment in speed optimization and said that it was already clear last September and October that it was paying off, as the e-commerce sites it measured saw average interactive load times decline more than 10%. More notable, those who invested in speed improvements continued to perform well through the holiday period as traffic hit seasonal highs, Shoppimon said, with load times for the fourth quarter overall about 13% faster than they had been at the end of the previous quarter.
While that strengthening focus on performance meant more revenue to e-commerce sites in the fourth quarter, Shoppimon also suggested that technical problems still continue to cause a massive sinkhole of lost revenue opportunities. For example, issues such as site downtime, broken search links and missing product pages caused e-commerce sites to miss out on as much as $11.8 billion in sales during the holiday shopping period alone, according to Shoppimon's estimates.
The study further noted that technical problems, including content-related issues, are several times more likely to occur than a site slowdown. So, it's good that e-commerce site operators are investing in ways to ensure their sites will load faster, but ultimately that is just one aspect of overall site health.