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Online retailers lose an estimated £1.73bn in global sales each year due to slow loading speeds, according to new research from online customer data platform QuBit.

Slow loading times are incredibly frustrating for shoppers, yet the Retail Focus white paper suggests e-commerce sites do not see site speed as a top priority.

The report also highlights the fact that consumers are becoming more impatient.

In 2006 the average user would be happy to wait around four seconds for a page to load, but by 2009 this had halved to two seconds.

Econsultancy’s Internet Statistics Compendium includes data from Rackspace which shows that 38% of UK online shoppers abandon websites or apps that take more than 10 seconds to load. 

Furthermore, Google considers a page to be ‘slow’ if it takes longer than 1.5 seconds to load and will consequently relegate it in the search rankings. As only a quarter (28%) of users bother to go past the first page of Google’s search results this could have a drastic impact on site traffic.

Lack of speed also kills conversions on mobile: 74% of users will abandon after waiting five seconds for a mobile site to load.  

To quantify the actual impact of slow loading times, QuBit surveyed 60,000 consumers using its Exit Feedback tool where users are asked to comment on their experience at the point of leaving a website.

Customer opinions were captured across 80 websites, within a range industries including retail, travel, technology, finance and publishing.

Of those surveyed, 8% cited slow loading pages as a key reason for abandoning their purchase.

QuBit, which is run by four ex-Googlers, said it is unrealistic to assume all of these users would have completed their purchase. 

Therefore it weighted the average conversion rate of web shoppers (4.35%) against the value of global online sales (£496bn).

Based on this estimate, internet retailers could be losing out on £1.73bn each year.

The report also evaluated loading times for pages across a range of industries. It found that on average homepages took 3.50 seconds to load, although some were as slow as 15 seconds.

Product pages were the slowest, taking twice as long to load as homepages across the board.

Site loading times vs. the average

But all is not lost for slow websites, QuBit suggests several steps that can be taken to improve loading times:

  • Use a content delivery network: this is a network of servers that delivers static content to users from the closest point of presence. It can increase loading speed for all visitors and is relatively inexpensive.
  • Minify HTML, CCS and JavaScript: the white space created by these formats reduces the speed at which the on-screen elements can be delivered, making load times slower.
  • Optimise image content: while high-res images look attractive, their size and prominence can slow down web pages. To optimise images you should remove unnecessary metadata, define image dimensions and use CSS sprites.
  • Use browser caching: this can be used to remember static files from the site that have previously been downloaded. This means that should the user return to that site in the future, large elements can be immediately accessed from the cache rather than downloaded from the server.
  • Minimise HTTP requests: QuBit’s Exit Feedback research also highlighted that one of the key issues faced by users was too much on-screen content, leading to confusion and eventually abandonment. In fact, some of the most effective uplifts in conversion can be delivered via streamlining web-pages, so minimising HTTP requests won’t only boost site-speed but in all likelihood will directly boost sales as well.

Image credit: psd via Flickr. 

David Moth

Published 4 May, 2012 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

1684 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Panos Ladas

Panos Ladas, Digital Marketing Manager at Piece of Cake

Most of the times, the titles in articles are more dramatic than they should be. In this case they are not dramatic enough. Let me restate the title:

Slow-loading websites cost retailers their business (or their success in business). Slow-loading websites cost retailers helps the rest succeed in business!

Come on people! Optimize, optimize, optimize!! Go under 2 seconds!! Do you want to sell online? Go for 2 seconds or less!

over 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Here are the numbers that show site speed is important to your bottom line! It's not just the user experience that suffers, it's your profit margin. Maybe that'll be enough to wake site owners up!

over 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Impressive figures, it really is the equivalent of queuing at a till in a shop. It's so easy for businesses to make their websites faster and the rewards are incredible, although it is often overlooked.

Its not only sales that benefit from increased website load times, your organic search rankings can also be effected.

If you can't optimise, find a better host and developer, simple.

over 4 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

I agree, this is really important for ecommerce companies, it's one of the first things we look at for our clients when we are helping them with either SEO or Conversion, as it affects both.

over 4 years ago

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Daniel

I read things like this time and time again.

At Site Confidence, we work with people who take website performance seriously and it is a welcome relief - a lot of people don't think performance is important and only rate availability.

What they don't realise is, if a website takes 10+ seconds to load, it may as well be unavailable!

over 4 years ago

Glynn Davies

Glynn Davies, Senior Technical SEO Account Manager at LBi

I think the bit about relegating sites slower than 1.5s might be too strongly put. The post linked to quotes Google's own post: "...it [site speed] doesn't carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal...".

over 4 years ago

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Simonne Vickers, Online PR Executive at Summit

For a retailer turning over £10 million online Summit estimate that 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.
Their 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.

This report highlights the real cost of a slow eCommerce site http://www.summit.co.uk/slow-ecommerce-website-speed-costs-sales/

almost 3 years ago

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