Web Performance – A Critical Success Factor for eRetailers

Since the rise of online shopping in the late 1990s, we have seen many evolutions in the underlying technology infrastructure and in consumer expectations. The rise of broadband access in homes, businesses and the advent of Mobile surely have placed the ‘Online Channel’ ahead of other retail channels.

In a recent survey it is found that, around 80% of shoppers will research online before making a purchase, and they hop across devices to suit their needs. And, 3 in 4 shoppers will abandon the site if the site does not load in under 3 seconds. These are staggering facts and these user behavior and expectations have serious consequences for an online retailer with an underperforming site.
Let’s look at some of the facts that are making ‘Web Performance’ a critical success factor for eRetailers (Online Retailers).

Fact 1: Need for Back-end IT integration and providing a ‘Seamless Experience’ to the end customer

The rise in the ‘Online’ channel did not eliminate the need for other B&M channels, but it only made it very important for the retailers to maintain a consistent messaging across all the channels so that the consumers sees ‘One Brand’ and not multiple competing channels. This has been proven by a recent survey conducted by ‘Sterling Commerce’ and ‘DemandWare’, in which 85% of the respondents expect a seamless experience across all the channels. So, to project a ‘One Brand’ image and to meet the customer’s expectation of ‘Seamless Experience’, the retailers must integrate the back-end IT landscape. This integration brings in a lot of advantages such as:

  • A single view of the customer and Products
  • Continuous state of interactions
  • Opportunity to optimize processed and run insightful analytics
  • Consistent Messaging and Branding

This means that an immense amount of data has to be gathered, collated and presented. Additionally there are many process intensive actions. Adding all this data to the webpage is going to bloat the page size, consume more CPU and Memory and impact the overall performance of the retailer’s website.

Fact 2: Increase in Mobile and Social Media adoption in consumers
The trends in Mobile and Social Media also indicate that there is growth in the retailer presence and sales through these channels. For example, the sales from Mobile devices will reach 37% of the total online sales by Sep-2013 as compared to 17% a year back. Also, the number of Smart phones and the shopping apps on them, are on the rise.
This means that the retailers not only have to provide a mobile enabled retail store but also have to support the various makes and models of the devices and types of operating systems on these devices. The app has to perform better on all the combinations and if it does not, users have apps-stores and mobile browsers at their finger-tips and can jump to a competitor’s store in a flash!

Fact 3: Rich User Experience demands of the consumers
Online customers want a rich and engaging experience, but at the same time, they love their websites to perform and respond quickly.
The retailers really want to meet or exceed the consumers’ expectations in this area. They do Channel Integration, Customized Recommendations, Product Review/ Alternatives/Comparisons, Interactive UI, Video Demonstrations, Past history of the customer purchases and Social Media integration. In fact, the average web-page size over the last few years has grown tremendously. The average page size has crossed 1MB with over 100 objects per page.
The page size along with any 3rd party code integration is surely going to have a negative impact on performance. Here are some examples of the impacts of underperforming online retail sites:

  • A study of a travel website shows that 57% of the users will abandon the site if it does not respond within 3 seconds.
  • 60% of the mobile users expect their site to load in under 3 seconds, if it does not load in under 5 seconds, 74% of the users will abandon the site.
  • 79% of the online shoppers who experience dissatisfaction are likely to no longer buy from that website again
  • 46% of the dissatisfied online shoppers develop ‘negative perception’ of the company. With ease of access to various social media, the ‘negative perception’ propagates quickly and can damage the company’s reputation and brand image, in-turn impacting prospective sales.

Surprising as all these may be, the financial implications of the user impatience are even more shocking.

  • Slowing down the page load by just one second could cost Amazon $1.6 billion in sales each year.
  • Almost 3 billion searches are done on Google each day and 95% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. Slowing Google’s search results by just four tenths of a second could result in a loss of 8 million searches per day, meaning they’d serve up many millions fewer online adverts.

This is how important performance of the website is. Poor web performance cost retailers:

  • Loss of loyal customers
  • Loss of Brand Reputation
  • Loss of revenue (because of fewer page visits, Higher page abandonments, less customer satisfaction and fewer conversions)

The bottom line is “Poor online retail site performance = Poor user experience = Less time on site = Lower conversions”. When conversion of a visit to a purchase online is where the money is for the retailers, Web Performance Matters!!

Note: Please go through the webinar we conducted recently sharing a holistic approach on technology, process & tools to leverage in achieving a “world class web performance” for online retail store fronts.