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Is your online shop really open for business 24/7? The business impact of poor web performance

23rd September 2015

Life in the slow lane?

There’s plenty to consider when managing your ecommerce site, but perhaps the provision of an effortless, intuitive customer journey is likely to be your biggest ongoing challenge.

Online performance has become an increasingly significant component of the customer experience, largely as a result of the wholesale shift towards mobile browsing. While we appreciate speedy page loading on our PCs, we become even less tolerant of tardy performance when we’re on the move. Simply put, if you improve the performance of your site, you can expect to reap the rewards of better user engagement, increased customer satisfaction and boosted conversion rates.

Making the link between speed and conversion

Obviously, the speed at which your website performs has an impact on the traffic levels it receives. But there’s also an impressive amount of research to support the causal relationship between page-load time and revenue generated. Web users expect a site to load within a couple of seconds and readily abandon the process if it takes longer. There’s also evidence to suggest that if a user has a poor experience the first time they visit a site, they not only won’t give it a second chance but will share their negative views with friends and family.

All of which means that if your website isn’t up to scratch, for even a handful of minutes a day, you’re not only risking losing conversions from existing visitors but you could be missing out on future business as well.

In this article, web analytics platform KISSmetrics estimates that a one second delay in page response could result in a worrying 7% reduction in conversions. So if, for instance, your ecommerce site is turning over £100,000 per day, a one-second delay could cost £2.5m in lost sales each year. A sobering thought.

Google’s early warning system

As you might expect, there’s a Google angle to take on board, too. Back in 2010, Google began to include page speed as a ranking factor in their search algorithm – and then built a ton of tools and reports to help businesses improve their performance. More recently, it’s been suggested that Google seems to be testing a ‘slow’ badge to warn users that a site may load slowly.

The keen-eyed observers among us noticed similar activity when Google was performing a dry-run of the ‘mobile-friendly’ tag that later became part of its SERP listings. Presumably, Google is hoping that the new label will push web developers to take action and improve performance for fear of having their sites tarred with the ‘slow’ brush ad infinitum.

A long-term commitment

Leaving aside the ‘Google’ factor, the performance of any website is crucial in as much as it affects the experience of the customer, which, in turn, impacts on the long-term brand values of the business, as well as its short-term revenues. There are lots of online tools available for benchmarking and measuring website performance, however, you’ll find that traditional monitoring methods tend to assess performance without putting the data into context.

With increasingly complex online shopping options – and sky-high customer expectations – you need to understand how real users experience your site so you can identify, measure and fix the issues that are likely to have an adverse impact on conversions as soon as they occur. Which means it’s no longer an issue solely for the tech team; to drive real business benefits, you’ll need to initiate a company-wide approach and commit to a continuous process of improvement. It’s time for business teams to sit up and take notice of website performance because the way your site is tested can reduce the opportunity cost of lost sales.

Start and end with the customer journey

At thinkTRIBE, we walk in your customers’ shoes, constantly monitoring system performance and making choices as real customers would. Not by checking stats or a series of static pages but by embarking on journey after journey to dynamically test the resilience of your website at the sharp end, signposting weak links so you can nip them in the bud before they start costing you dearly. We think dynamic customer journeys are truly the only way be sure you’re offering your visitors the round-the-clock online experience that will convert them not only into loyal customers but vocal brand advocates.