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Nov 2, 2009 | 2 minute read

The Importance of Site Performance

written by Linda Bustos

Site Performance: The Need for Speed

In a 2006 study on site abandonment (.pdf) conducted by Jupiter Research on behalf of Akamai, 28% of online shoppers claimed they would not wait longer than 4 seconds for a page to load before leaving a site. This equated to 33% of broadband customers and 19% of dialup. Though broadband customers had higher expectations for page load speed, even 45% of dialup users were unwilling to wait more than 6 seconds for a page to load.

Online power shoppers who spend more than $1500 online are more likely to demand fast loading pages (55% vs. 40% of shoppers who spend under $1500 per year).

Speed's Impact on Loyalty - Online and Offline

Faster sites attract more repeat visitors and customers. 64% of dissatisfied online shoppers said they were less likely to visit a slow retailer again, and 62% were less likely to purchase from the site again. 48% would purchase from a competitor, 28% would hold a negative perception of the company, 27% would tell a friend about the bad experience and 16% reported they would be less likely to visit a retailer's offline store after a bad online experience.

For all these reasons, Jupiter and Akamai concluded you should shoot for a 4 second or less page load.

It's 2009 - What's Changed?

Akamai teamed up with Forrester Research earlier this year for a follow up study and found online shoppers have even higher expectation for web performance -- and poor performance has an even bigger impact on customer loyalty. For example, nearly half of consumers do not want to wait longer than 2 seconds for a page to load.

How Do Online Retailers Currently Stack Up?

In 2008, Internet Retailer conducted a retailer survey and found:

  • 68% of retailers' home pages load in under 3 seconds
  • 43% load in less than 2 seconds
  • 81.8% load in 30 seconds or less for dialup users, with 50.6% under 15 seconds
  • 43.3% say the use of video, animation and AJAX has hurt site performance

Do Online Retailers Monitor Performance?

  • 77.3% monitor site responsiveness
  • 9.1% engage in load balancing testing and content validity
  • 4.5% measure application behavior

What Do Online Retailers Measure?

  • 73% measure site performance's impact in terms of lost revenue
  • 59% measure lost traffic
  • 43% measure the increase in call center and email traffic
  • 27% measure the increase in negative customer reviews
  • 21% measure the impact on customer satisfaction ratings
  • 40% benchmark their performance against competitors

What Do Retailers Test?

  • 37% test home and product pages consistently using real-time reporting tools (26% test daily, 19% test weekly or monthly)
  • 84% test various screen resolutions
  • 83% test across different browsers and operating systems
  • 16% test performance from different geographic locations or different times of day
  • 16% record and replay specific user transactions
  • 13% test performance of mobile applications
  • 53% conduct testing before the holiday season

The Internet Retailer article also suggest retailers retailers should test the performance of new page treatments (including A/B testing) and custom applications they add to their ecommerce platform or web hosting service before full roll out. It reminds us that the features and functions may work fine in the environment in which they were built (design and development firms having top of the line systems), but differently when installed on the retailer's platform.