Why E-Commerce Giants Could Lose Customers

3 minute read
Derek Walter avatar

Speed thrills — and kings of e-commerce like Amazon, eBay, Netflix and Wal-Mart will lose customers unless they boost their web page load times, according to an analysis of the the web’s top destinations.

The report from Radware, a company that focuses on application and security solutions, analyzed the 100 highest-traffic, e-commerce sites, which include Etsy, Best Buy, IKEA and video game seller Steam.

It often takes more than the three seconds Radware recommends for the home pages of the sites analyzed to load.

However, such analytics can be a moving target. The solutions are not always straightforward because there are so many moving parts in serving up a comprehensive site and providing optimal digital experiences.

3, 2, 1 ... Buy

The report describes three seconds or less as the ideal web site load time. After that threshold, visitors may move on to another site in frustration — which of course means lost revenue if you’re selling something.

Of the web's top 100 e-commerce sites, the median load time was 5.5 seconds.

Only 12 percent of the surveyed sites served up a complete web page in less than three seconds.

A full 72 percent of those surveyed were right at the median speed of 5.5 seconds.

But maybe that’s not so bad. KISSmetrics, another site that monitors web performance, considers five seconds the magic cutoff. That would put most sites at or just above the threshold.

No matter the number, there are a lot of things that e-commerce sites large and small can do to optimize performance.

What's the Fix?

The fix depends on who you ask

Of course, Radware is all too happy to help you itself: it claims it has just the right optimization tools to ensure your site loads fast enough. However, the report also outlines 14 recommended steps to take.

The top recommendation is to consolidate the JavaScript and CSS into common files. This allows files to be shared across different web pages, thereby reducing load times.

Learning Opportunities

Another key is image compression, which reduces the size of a graphics file without degrading the image quality to an unacceptable level.

Many of the other recommendations are smart practices that a good web team should be always mindful of, including rethinking the design and location of call-to-action links in feature graphics, deferring rendering of "below the fold" content and non-essential scripts, preloading page resources in the browser and implementing an automated web performance optimization solution

With any digital storefront, your analytics tell a story about what the customers are doing.

Try It Yourself

If you want to see how your own site is doing, there are plenty of resources on the web you can check out before paying a consultant.

Google’s own PageSpeed delivers a comprehensive set of results about a site’s speed, including recommendations for how to make things zippier.

Amazon’s Alexa is one of the benchmark sites for telling you general analytics about a web site’s popularity. However, many of the other tools are available if you’re willing to sign up for one of their monthly plans.

Pingdom is another tool, which also serves up many of the details like JavaScript and CSS files than can help a development team.

There are also several useful resources for boosting a site’s page speed beyond the Radware recommendations, such as replicating your servers worldwide so visitors don’t get bogged down because of their location.