Blog: Retail Systems Research Declares Winners and Losers in eCommerce Performance

June 21, 2017 Tedd Rodman

How well are online retailers meeting customer expectations?  Retail Systems Research (RSR) aimed to find out.  This week RSR published their study “eCommerce Performance: What Works, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next?” which evaluates eighty major retail websites on performance (speed) and the quality of their shopper experience.   

What did they discover?  Here are a few highlights:  

  • Apparel retailers win for the best shopping experience:  The most striking visual experience of retailers surveyed came from the Apparel and Accessories segment.  High resolution images, advanced shopping tools using 3rd party applications, and intuitive navigation deliver an experience that customers love.  7 of the 10 highest scorers were apparel retailers, and they also had the lowest bounce rate among all retail categories.  
  • 3rd party applications build great experiences, but hide a darker side:  Retailers in the study used an average of 70 third party applications on their websites.  These 3rd party partners may help them create a richer shopping experience, but they also require hundreds of additional requests to build each page.  As a result, 50-75% of the time required to load a page was spent waiting on 3rd parties, and websites with above average use of 3rd parties (>70) were 20% slower than those below the average.    
  • Mobile is faster than desktop, but not fast enough:  Mobile sites are usually thought to be slower than desktop sites, due to constraints on network connection and browser processing.  Yet the study found that retailers have done a better job optimizing mobile sites, making them faster to start render (3s) than desktop sites (5s).   But don’t get too excited.  The average mobile site slows to a crawl from that point, completing the page in 9.5 seconds, well past the 3 second target of many retailers.  At least it still beats desktop, which arrives at 16 seconds for doc complete, a time only dial-up users will find acceptable.    

If anything, the report demonstrates that rich images and advanced shopping tools delivered by 3rd party partners are required to build great shopping experiences.  But the data also reveals that with great features comes great cost.  A cost measured in slower page load times across both desktop and mobile.  

In the coming weeks we will dig deeper into the data, and identify the best balance of speed and shopping tools demonstrated by this group.  In the meantime, download the report and see if you draw any different conclusions, or find data you can use to benchmark your own efforts  around performance and the shopping experience.

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