The importance of fast load times in an online retail environment has been proven time and time again. Online, a shopper’s time literally equates to money.

Now, the research from our recent mobile study shows that it’s a shopper’s time on tablets that should be the focus on your website optimisation initiatives.

In the UK, 82% of mobile purchases are made on the iPad.

Tablets and speed: the stats

This past March, Compuware surveyed shoppers and found that almost 70% of tablet users expect a website to load in two seconds or less. If your mobile site isn’t fast enough, your customers will move along (and quickly) to the next click.

According to the study, a bad web experience will drive 46% of tablet users to competitive websites and 33% are less likely to purchase from that company. Comparatively, a Strangeloop survey reveals that shoppers using a PC are a bit more patient, with the majority allowing a full three seconds before making the jump. A shocking 80% of those users, once they’ve abandoned the site, will not return.

Performance is also key when digging deeper into our mobile study. Not only is mobile responsible for over 10% of all online business; but the study also revealed that browsers spend more time on iPads with page views higher than any other channel.

Even more surprising was the iPhone’s Average Order Value, which came out the highest. The momentum is now significant and respecting the shoppers and their experience across all methods is of increasing importance.

Of course when it comes to your customers’ user experience on mobile, there are many factors you can’t control. Load times are affected by the type of connection they are using, how much congestion is on the network and the distance your customer is from the node.

But with the world’s largest retailers setting a high bar for tablet performance, any site which fails to match these standards is likely to deter customers and persuade them to shop elsewhere.

Slow loading sites and customer retention

Slow-loading pages can have a particularly negative impact on first time visitors where the website presents the only means to cultivate a relationship with a customer.

By not offering customers lightning fast experiences, retailers stand to lose not only new business, but also risk damaging customer retention and loyalty over a customer’s lifetime value.

Eccomplished’s Innovation Index (a detailed study undertaken by Coleman Parkes Research – April 2012) suggests that 74% of retailers are investing in ‘retention/loyalty’ as an area for growth. Failing to provide a smooth mobile experience can also cause a retailer to appear behind in the times, causing further harm to a brand’s reputation

Adding more functionality to a site, such as the inclusion of personalisation, is done to enrich the user experience. However, each new site enhancement requires careful performance benchmarking and resilience testing to ensure that it is not detrimental to the customer.

With the evolution now of pure mobile sites as opposed to simple code conversions, all retailers can and should take precautions to ensure that they are optimising website speed and performance and thus encouraging engagement, rather than deflecting buyers.

For merchants, the first step in solving for the consumer’s need for speed is to ensure that third-party vendors and partners (e.g. providers of personalisation) employ a multiple data centre approach. Redundant and geographically load-balanced centres are the key to guaranteeing minimal latency for server calls, translating into the fastest page load possible.

It is also vital for retailers to shop their own sites. Teams should constantly test website pages, and benchmark against competitors, to ensure that the customer experience is optimal.

In conclusion, we know that time is directly tied to currency, not only for its real impact on a retailer’s bottom line, but also for its undeniable influence on customer lifetime value and brand perception.

Whilst the number of shopping sessions taking place on mobile and tablet devices will only continue their exponential climb, we must do what is necessary to keep up with our savvy shoppers’ expectations in the meantime.