Online shopping...time is of the essence

Thursday, 22nd September 2016

Precious extra seconds because of site enhancements could cost your business dearly.

We all know the saying, "It'll only take a second" - and we all know that it's the precious seconds that count most when we're in a rush to catch a flight, beat the traffic or get the best seat in a rush sale of concert tickets.

But how does that translate to our behaviour online? Well, simply put, we're as impatient as ever, and only getting worse.

Whether we're browsing a news site, streaming video or audio, or (most importantly for you online retailers out there) buying items online, if the site doesn't load fast enough to satisfy our demanding nature, we'll drop it like a hot potato, and probably not return. 

More than half of us won't wait 3 seconds for a page to load

According to a recent study by digital performance measurement company Dynatrace, more than half of us won't wait more than 3 seconds for a page to load, and more worrying for online retailers, a half-second increase on a site's retail item pages loading can result in a 10% drop in sale conversion... if you're turning over hundreds of thousands of Pounds or more a year, that's a big problem...

Oddly, however, while data speeds and service availability have improved immeasurably over the last 5 years, recent studies have shown that sites have actually slowed down – increasingly media-rich pages, social media links and chat functionality are the main culprits, although, of course demand for these enhancements runs high.

In the early days on online retailing, the simpler the site was, the better – show me what I want to see, let me add it to a basket or compare it with other products, offer me other things I might like to add to my purchase and let me pay...job done.

The pendulum seems to have swung too far the other way now - for example, benchmark e-commerce regions like the USA are showing an average homepage response time increase of half a second over the last year from 3.4 to 3.9 seconds. 

And globally, the average page load time has gone up by 7% compared to last year from 4.2 to 4.5 seconds. 

The impact is real – one online retailer dropped sales by more than 11% when their site slowed because of large image files...the lesson was learned, but for many retailers that may not be the case. More worryingly, many online retailers are unaware of what may be causing their dip in conversion, and may in fact opt for even more site enhancements in an effort to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The likely result, however, will be the opposite of what they’re trying to achieve. 

What is the solution?

If you're an online retailer, you need to find the balance between providing a site that is rich enough in its imagery, slick enough in its functionality, fast enough in its ability to satisfy every customer and process-efficient enough to convert the sale. 

Some key pointers in making sure your e-commerce page covers all the above include

  • ensuring your products are categorised neatly and can be found easily on the site navigation
  • bringing sale items or promoted items to the front of the site
  • ensuring your images are web optimised but still allow the 'enlarge' function
  • having a prominent breadcrumb so that visitors can navigate easily
  • having clear Call To Action buttons to initiate the sales process - include 'value options' as near to this as possible (free shipping, discounts for bulk purchases, easy returns etc.)
  • breaking up form fields on mobile for easy checkout


If you need help with your website,  please don't hesitate to contact us or call 01223 550800

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 Image source: Google