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Load times among America's top retail sites have increased by 22% in just one year from an average 5.94 seconds in December 2011 to 7.25 seconds in December 2012.

The findings, which come from a report by Radware, are bad news for ecommerce sites considering the importance of site speed for traffic and conversions.

A previous survey from Tagman found that a one second delay in page-load can cause 7% loss in customer conversions, while a separate survey from Akamai revealed that 40% of people will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load.

To find out how the top sites were performing Radware tested the load times (in Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 17, and Chrome 23) and page composition of the 2,000 top US retail web sites in December 2012. 

It then compared this data versus previous benchmark tests performed on the same set of sites, dating back to December 2010.

Though overall the average site speed has got slower, the top performing sites have been getting quicker since 2011.

In December 2011 Nike.com clocked the fastest load time at 2.27 seconds, but in 2012 CVS.com topped the list with a load time of just 1.02 seconds.

What’s causing the slowdown?

Between 2011 and 2012 the median number of requests (such as images, HTML, and CSS/JavaScript files) increased 8.22% from 73 to 79.

Each page resource makes an individual round trip from the user’s browser, which requests the file from the host server, which in turn delivers the file to the browser.

Each round trip can take 20-50 milliseconds for desktop browsers – and up to a full second each for mobile users – numbers that add up quickly when pages contain dozens of resources.

Top 100 are slower than average

The data shows that the top 100 sites are actually slower than average with a median load time of 8.23 seconds, 14% slower than the overall load time of 7.25 seconds.

Top retailers are also slowing down at a faster rate than the top 2,000 sites. In the past year the load time for the median top 100 site has slumped from 6.4 seconds to 8.23 seconds, which represents a slowdown of 28% compared to 22% for the top 2,000.

The report suggests that page size and complexity could be partially to blame, as top pages are likely to contain more page resources than other sites. 

David Moth

Published 27 March, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1683 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Rick

This has been an issue for many years. I did my first e-con site in 1999 (14 years ago); back when few customers had DSL or Cable, none had mobile, and many still used dial up; I was able to gain customers over my competitors because my home page was simple, fast, and had the smallest of sized graphics.

I would be my suggestion that webmasters of today's eCommerce sites remember that: time is money, and the longer it takes for the site to load, the more money is lost to sites that load quickly.

over 3 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Vested interest: I work for a web performance company.

That some home pages are bulking up, is not entirely news.

But the survey is not statistically meaningful, as a measure of how fast your speed is for your visitors.

a) it only measured using non-mobile browsers: many sites are now tweaking for those users first and foremost.

b) it only measured home pages: yes some sites have added bulk to their home page, but many have done that as part of making other pages load faster (pre-loading things).

Anyway, your customers do not place orders from your home page! They follow multi-page Journeys to find products and check them out.

So beware using a measurement of your home page as a measure of your site overall!

b) only 3 samples were taken of each site.

Statistically this is meaningless: because it took the survey 2 weeks to test all 2,000 sites: so they were being tested at different times of day!

Comparing site A at 7am with Site B at eg 7pm...well it's a bogus comparison, as the traffic load and hence speed on the sites will be quite different.

Conclusion:
take this survey with a big piece of statistical salt!

But good performance on your site is vital to giving your customers a good brand experience: so DO define the important User Journeys on your site, and make sure you are having those measured - 24/7: using both desktop and mobile browsers.

over 3 years ago

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Martyn Jobber, VP EMEA at TagMan

This is an interesting set of stats to come out on a day when the papers are reporting large-scale cyber attacks, slowing load times across the board. Seeing as consumer attention spans are decreasing, and commonly 25% of traffic drops off after 4 seconds of waiting for a site to load, the news that the average time has slowed by 28% is actually an opportunity for savvy online ecommerce marketers to take up. The article cites mobile traffic and image files as the problem for site load times, however this can also largely be attributed to the level and complexity of advertising units appearing on any given site, app or mobile browser. We’re seeing a rise in rich media, HTML5 creative and interactive ads which tend to eat into bandwidth and particularly on mobiles. Housing the loading tags for all of these ad units in one single tag makes sure that only one tag fires on any given page, rather than multiple tags for each unit, ensuring that page load times are as optimised as possible. Also, by paying close attention to customers’ journeys, marketers will be able to efficiently figure out how the majority of online users find their way to their website, bringing a level of focus to a marketing campaign and cutting out any unnecessary ad “noise” generated by a brand that doesn’t serve any revenue-generation purposes.

over 3 years ago

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Simonne Vickers, Online PR Executive at Summit

For a retailer turning over £10 million online Summit estimated that this could lead to a loss of more than £1 million in revenue

Summit, specialist in online retailing, has conducted an in-depth study into the impact of website speed on some of the biggest retailers.
The key findings paint a stark pictur e of lost opportunities.
The research among 230 UK retailers shows that over 92% are falling behind the industry’s 3-second page load benchmark, while some are running as high as eight seconds or more.

The Summit report highlights the load times for top retail sites and the real cost of a slow ecommerce site.

almost 3 years ago

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