Mobile users have high expectations. Two out of three shoppers expect pages to load in four seconds or less on their smartphones (and three seconds on their tablets). Google recently raised that bar in the latest version of their mobile development guidelines, stating that sites should deliver “above the fold” content in less than one second.
Our annual mobile performance report, the 2013 State of the Union for Mobile Ecommerce Performance, released today, poses the question: How do the top 100 retail websites measure up to these expectations?
Slow Mobile Performance Has a Serious Business Impact
There are quantifiable reasons why delivering faster pages to mobile users makes bottom-line sense. Three out of five mobile users report that they have a better opinion of a brand when it offers a good mobile experience, but brand perception is just the tip of the impact iceberg.
The abandonment rate for mobile shopping carts is 97%, compared to 70-75% for desktop carts, and performance is a significant abandonment factor. In fact, slow pages are the number one user complaint around mobile sites, ranking even higher than site crashes.
Research Background and Approach
In August 2013, we engaged in a four-week study of the top 100 retail websites, as ranked by Alexa.com. We subjected the home page of each site – both the full-site version and the m.site version – to a series of page speed tests using a variety of Android and iOS smartphones and tablets over 4G and Wifi networks. Our focus was on capturing metrics such as load time and number of page resources. The overarching goal of this research was to gain an understanding of how leading websites perform for real users in real-world settings, outside of development and testing environments.
Our findings are summarized below and described in detail in our report.
1. Only 2% of full-site pages loaded in the expected time of <4 seconds. 20% of the home pages we tested took 10 or more seconds to load. The median page took 7.84 seconds to load.
2. The median load time for m.sites also fell short of user expectations. The median m.site home page was 4.33 seconds. While this was 44% faster than the median full site, it still falls somewhat short of mobile users’ stated load time threshold of 4 seconds.
3. M.sites are on the rise, but 1 in 5 don’t allow visitors to access the full site. 80% of companies have a mobile-specific site, up from 76% in 2012. Of these m.sites, 79% offer a link that allows users to view the full site, while 21% do not offer full site access.
4. Even tablet-using shoppers get sent to the m.site. Most sites served the full site to the iPad, and the few that did not offered a link to the full site; however, almost one-third of sites served the mobile site to the Android tablet, and 3% do not allow shoppers using Android tablet to access the full site at all.
5. Android smartphones outperformed iOS. Performance varied widely among smartphones. Median load times across the five devices we tested ranged from 3.06 seconds for the Samsung Galaxy Note to 11.35 seconds for the iPhone 4.
6. The Android tablet outperformed the iPad. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 served pages 33% faster over Wifi than the iPad 2. This finding was consistent across most of the sites tested.
What To Do with These Findings
Before mobile, web developers could rely on steady improvements in hardware and bandwidth to help deliver an optimal user experience to desktop users. In recent years, however, the explosion of mobile use has developers struggling to keep pace.
In addition to addressing the inherent limitations of mobile devices – lower bandwidth, smaller memory, greater latency, and less processing power – developers must also consider several other constantly moving targets in the changing mobile landscape:
- Browser/device fragmentation (No single screen size owns more than 20% of the market share)
- Website versus app
- M.site versus full site
- Responsive web design
Despite the ever-increasing complexity of delivering high-performance web pages to mobile devices, there are a number of effective mobile optimization best practices, many of which are not currently being exploited by most site owners. Our report outlines a set of nine best practices — many of which are automatically implemented by our FastView technology — which site owners should consider to optimize the mobile experience for their customers.