'Disturbingly slow' e-commerce site load times turning away shoppers
E-commerce site performance continues to be “disturbingly slow,” and some retail web sites fail to load elements such as images correctly on a regular basis, according to a study conducted by Retail Systems Research (RSR) for e-commerce cloud platform provider Yottaa.
The research report “E-Commerce Performance: What Works, What Doesn’t and What’s Next?” evaluated more than 80 major retail websites on page speed performance as well as end user experience. Among retailers, Express scored the highest of all 80, while One Kings Lane scored the lowest.
RSR found that the average web site took 9.5 seconds to load on mobile and 16.6 seconds to load on desktop. Both of those figures are well above the default standard of three seconds, beyond which it is believed e-commerce site operators are under great risk of losing customers.
In addition to Express, other top performers among retail web sites included Shoes.com, RueLaLa.com, Sephora, The Talbots and Eddie Bauer. Another very big name in the bottom 10 worst performing sites was Lululemon and RSR said several retailer sites "errored" out of the evaluation by failing each time they were trued to load completely.
Mobile and desktop load times taking from 6.5–13.6 seconds longer than the patience threshold that web users have for load times is indeed troubling. It is even more troubling when quantified in the report in terms of how slow site performance threatens conversion rates: The report stated that other studies have noted that every second of web latency results in a 7% loss of conversion.
The report suggested one of the causes for long load time could have to do with the third party applications many retailers have embraced to enrich their sites and improve customer experiences. Retailers in the study used an average of 70 third party e-commerce applications on their websites, the report said, but each of those applications "require hundreds of additional requests to build each page. As a result, 50–75% of the time required to load a page was spent waiting on third parties, and websites with above average use of third parties (>70) were 20% slower than those below the average," the report stated.
The report comes not long after a different study suggested e-commerce sites are wasting too much time on cosmetic changes and related site upgrades when they should be focused on adding personalization features that lead directly to increased revenue. Both studies make good, not necessarily opposing points. Sites need to provide rich features and experiences to engage customers, but in order to take advantage of them, shoppers need a site that loads sooner rather than later.