Speed, Showrooming, and the “Creepiness Line”: My Top 6 Takeaways from the 2014 Shop.org Summit


At Radware, we care about making our customers’ websites and web-based applications as secure, fast, and reliable as possible. When I go to conferences and events, this is the lens through which I view every session I attend and every conversation I have.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of being invited to lead a round table at the annual Shop.org Summit in Seattle. The Summit is one of the largest and most important ecommerce conferences in the world. If you work in the online retail space, it’s a must-attend event.

As always, I learned at least as much as I shared with others. Here are my top six takeaways.

1. Want to think like Amazon? Then think speed.

Brad Stone is the author of The Everything Store, an unauthorized biography of Amazon. As a senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, his book is as meticulously researched as you’d expect it to be. In his Summit keynote, Brad discussed how Amazon’s focus on speed in all aspects of its business has been a cornerstone of its brand and its success. Brad talked about how Amazon has woven “a robe of small advantages” via its “prism of speed”: fulfilment, ebooks, one-click, Amazon Prime/Prime Fresh, and Amazon Dash.

Related: Why Do So Many Ecommerce Sites Make the Same Three Usability Mistakes?

2. Showrooming, multi-platform browsing, and online “pre-browsing” are shopping practices that are here to stay. This means performance matters on every device.

55% of all time spent on retail sites takes place on a mobile deviceWhile the conversion rate for smartphones lags behind desktop and tablets, that’s not a reason to ignore mobile performance. Here’s why:

  • The average online shopper visits a retail site 6.2 times, using 2.6 different devices, before they make a purchase.
  • 81% of consumers use their smartphones in-store while making a purchase.
  • Up to 75% of shoppers who buy in bricks-and-mortar stores will “pre-browse” on a retailer’s digital property beforehand.
  • 65% of customers say their overall opinion of a brand was affected by the online experience.

More than ever, site owners need to ensure that their customers are receiving a consistently safe, fast, reliable user experience — no matter what their device or connection type.

Related: 2014 State of the Union for Mobile Ecommerce Performance

3. Your mobile app shouldn’t displace your mobile website.

Some retailers have mobile apps. Some retailers have experimented with apps, only to ditch them later. Some retailers have never had an app and have no current plans to create one. Despite their differences, the consensus among most retailers is that you need a mobile site for attracting new visitors (e.g. via search). And if you do plan to develop an app, you need a compelling loyalty-based reason for it, as it will be used by your most religious customers. Retailers agreed that they still prioritize investment in their mobile sites over investment in mobile apps.

Related: 7 Mobile Web Performance Myths Debunked

4. When it comes to delivering personalized content, beware the “creepiness line”.

At the Summit, I learned about a fascinating Forrester report called Digital Creepiness: How Not To Spook Your Customers. The report discusses the fine line between using personalization in a way that your customers find helpful versus using personalization tools in a way that your customers find creepy. Customers flock to apps that use more personal information because they find them intensely valuable. But at the same time, many of these same customers are disturbed by how much detailed information about their personal lives is collected and used by companies.

There’s no clear creepiness line. It’s highly subjective and varies from user to user — something to bear in mind when adding new personalization features to your site/app. How to curtail creepiness? Comply with privacy laws, protect customer data, and A/B test new features to see what works and what drives people away.

Related: Fourth-Party Calls: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Site… and Your Visitors

5. Third-party scripts have never been more popular — and therefore have never been more dangerous.

My travels around the massive exhibitors’ floor revealed the incredible number of features that are currently available to ecommerce shops. It’s no surprise that the average retail page contains 25 or more third-party scripts. Yet it was interesting to note that there was little to no discussion of the performance and security impact of these scripts.

As performance and security experts, we’re very aware of the fact that external scripts can slow down or block pages from rendering. We also know that non-SSL third-party scripts can introduce security holes on secure pages. The question is: do most site owners know this?

Related: An 11-Step Guide to Bulletproof Your Site Against Third-Party Failure

6. Get ready for Generation Touch.

Teenagers today are the first generation to be raised with touchscreens. As this demographic ages and enters the mainstream, prepare to embrace touch technology in a much deeper way. It’s crucial to remember that touch is predicated on responsiveness. In other words, it’s critical to design with performance in mind.

Related: 55 Web Performance Stats You’ll Want to Know


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