“Time is money” as the saying goes – and when it comes to the performance of online stores, this can be taken literally. In this case, it’s only seconds that determine the success or failure of a store in e-commerce.
After all, customers on the Internet are impatient: if it takes too long to set up a website, they will quickly switch to the competitor’s site. There are many ways and means of increasing the loading speed without having to sacrifice attractive product presentations at the same time.
More and more consumers are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by convenient online shopping. But in order to actually convert the greater sales opportunities into higher conversion rates and shopping cart values, store operators have to make their online store as attractive as possible for the user, because competition on the Internet is fierce. One important factor here is the loading speed of the website. Who hasn’t experienced it: when you see long lines in front of the supermarket checkout, you reconsider the urgency of your purchases and sometimes leave the store without having spent a single cent. Hardly anything deters potential customers more than waiting times – even more so on the Internet than in traditional shopping malls. Here, competing suppliers are often just a few clicks away, and price comparisons and store ratings are available within seconds. Keeping customers loyal to a particular store is a much greater challenge on the Internet than in brick-and-mortar retail. Reasons enough, therefore, for every store operator to take a close look at the performance of their website.
Customer behavior on the World Wide Web
Numerous factors contribute to the fact that the visitor of an online store actually completes a purchase. However, long website loading times mean that some potential customers leave the store without even taking a quick look at the goods on offer. In recent years, online retailers have come up with a number of ways to make their websites more attractive. Whereas users were often only able to obtain rudimentary product information in the early days of e-commerce, today they can generally expect a multimedia shopping experience. Those interested in buying can view the product on offer from different perspectives and in different variations using several images; zoom functions, 360° views and product videos supplement the information options. This trend in e-commerce reflects the expansion of broadband Internet access, because in the age of almost universal availability of DSL, the amount of data to be loaded is no longer as important as it was in the days of the telephone modem – or is it? Even today, the more information a page contains, the longer it takes to load – often with undesirable consequences for customer behavior.
In the field of e-commerce, performance refers to the loading time of a website, measured from the moment the return key is pressed after entering the URL until all content is fully displayed. Alongside the product information offered, performance is therefore a key concept in e-commerce for strengthening customer trust and increasing customer loyalty. In this context, it is often only a few seconds that decide the success of an online store.
First step: root cause analysis
The store systems of the major online retailers show the way: Increasing performance does not mean having to do without attractive product information. To increase the loading speed of the online store, the first step is to measure performance precisely and analyze the results. However, a test with the browser of one’s own PC is usually not sufficient for this. Although this provides an overview of the page objects loaded and the respective loading speed, the significance of this information is limited. If, for example, you notice that sales are lower in certain regions than elsewhere, this may also be due to the Internet connections available there. However, in order to track down these regional weak points, you don’t have to pack your suitcase and personally take the measurement on site. Instead, online store specialists recommend using an application performance management tool (APM tool), which can be used to take speed measurements anywhere in the world – no matter where you happen to be.
The way to shorter loading times in e-commerce
In practice, the problem of insufficient performance is often overlooked. Instead, site operators usually react to a lack of traffic by adding even more elaborate product information and media to the website – which makes the site even slower. Patrick Pschowski, Project Delivery Manager at e-commerce specialist nubizz, on the other hand, offers his customers individual solutions to optimize performance. “First, we measure the current status on all relevant devices, countries and markets,” Pschowski reports. With the help of the analysis data obtained in this way, nubizz develops a package of measures that is completely tailored to the respective customer needs. This can include a special store system optimized for the use of mobile devices or a country-specific variant, the improvement of the server landscape or even just the change of image sizes. “It’s really case-based,” Pschowski elaborates. “Depending on where the problems are, we develop an individual optimization plan for the store in each case.”
Seconds decide success
No one likes to wait – especially not on the Internet. Sometimes it can be fractions of a second that tip the scales in favor of a purchase decision. At the same time, customers expect good performance throughout – regardless of whether they’re on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. A uniform product presentation across all touchpoints and a consistently high loading speed not only ensure a special shopping experience, but also strengthen the customer’s trust in the online retailer – an investment that will definitely pay off in view of rising sales opportunities and increasing competitive pressure in e-commerce.