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REPORT: State of the Union for Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance [Fall 2014]

October 14, 2014 — by Tammy Everts9

Cyber Monday is just around the corner, and early predictions point to holiday ecommerce sales hitting an all-time record of $72 billion. But retailers know that competition for this ecommerce spend will also be at an all-time high. Many will leverage aggressive strategies, ranging from rich visuals to geo-targeting campaigns, to earn their share of the holiday retail pie. These strategies, however, can come with a significant performance price tags, making pages slow to render — and ultimately driving away consumers.

Today at Radware, we’ve released our latest research into the performance of the world’s most popular ecommerce sites. Our research answers the question: In the fight to offer shoppers the richest possible content, are retailers helping or hurting the user experience?

Background

Radware_SOTU_Fall_2014_Infographic_Final
Click to enlarge infographic

Since 2010, we’ve been measuring and analyzing the performance of the top 500 online retailers (as ranked by Alexa.com). We look at web page metrics such as load time, time to interact (the amount of time it takes for a page to render its feature “above the fold” content), page size, page composition, and adoption of performance best practices. Our goal is to obtain a real-world “shopper’s eye view” of the performance of leading sites, and to track how this performance changes over time.

We release our research every quarter, and every quarter we never fail to discover compelling new findings. Here’s a sample of just a few of the findings from our Fall 2014 State of the Union for Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance:

1. The median top 100 ecommerce home page takes 6.5 seconds to render feature content.

In an ideal world, web pages would render in 3 seconds or less, yet we found that the median top 100 ecommerce home page takes 6.5 seconds to render its primary content and 11.4 seconds to fully load. This falls short of user expectations for pages to render in 3 seconds or less.

  • Only 12% of the top 100 retail sites rendered feature content in fewer than 3 seconds.
  • 22% took 10 or more seconds just to be become interactive.
  • 2% took 20 seconds or longer to become interactive.

2. The median page has slowed down by 23% in just twelve months.

An equally alarming finding was that the median page has significantly slowed down in just one year. In our Fall 2013 performance report, we found that the median page took 5.3 seconds to become interactive and 8.6 seconds to fully load.

While a 1.2-second slowdown may sound negligible, it’s crucial to bear in mind that when it comes to page speed, every second counts. Walmart.com found that for every second of load time improvement, conversions increased by up to 2%, while at Staples, one second of improvement increased conversions by a staggering 10%.

3. Why pages are slowing down: Payload, stylesheets, and JavaScript

With a payload of 1492 KB, the median page is 19% larger than it was one year ago. Looking at the total number of page resources (e.g. images, CSS, JavaScript), it’s easy to see why this growth is an issue: in Fall 2013, the median page contained 87 resources, a number that has ballooned by 22% to 106 resources. 10% of the top 100 ecommerce sites contain more than 200 resource requests.

Each of these requests introduces incremental performance slowdown, as well as the risk of page failure. For example, poorly executed CSS can create a host of performance problems, ranging from stylesheets that take too long to download and parse to improperly placed CSS files that block the rest of the page from rendering.

Takeaway

It is crucial that site owners maintain – or better yet, increase – their vigilance regarding the performance impact of new features. And it is equally crucial that site owners retain ongoing visibility into how their pages perform in the real world.

The positive takeaway is that there are a number of tools and techniques that site owners can leverage to optimize performance. To date, many of these tools and techniques have been left on the floor, even by leading retailers. In the race to provide online shoppers with the best possible online experience, site owners who pick up these tools and take advantage them will give themselves a significant head start.

Get the report: State of the Union for Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance

Also get our annual report on mobile performance: 2014 State of the Union: Mobile Ecommerce Performance

Tammy Everts

As a former senior researcher, writer, and solution evangelist for Radware, Tammy Everts spent years researching the technical, business, and human factor sides of web/application performance. Before joining Radware, Tammy shared her research findings through countless blog posts, presentations, case studies, whitepapers, articles, reports, and infographics for Strangeloop Networks.

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