Costco and Sears deliver snappy sites during the holidays

January 6, 2015 01:16 PM

For online shoppers in a hurry, was the place to go around Christmas.

The e-commerce site of Costco Wholesale Cooperation loaded most quickly in a study of 50 major retail web sites by Dynatrace, a provider of web site performance monitoring and services. Costco’s site loaded on average in 2.581 seconds on a desktop computer, followed by the sites of Amway (3.827 seconds) and Apple Inc. (4.464 seconds), according to Dynatrace, formerly known as Compuware.

Costco is No. 14 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, Amway No. 39 and Apple No. 2. Dynatrace studied the response time for retail sites on desktop computers between Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.

In a study of the response time of the 50 retailers’ mobile commerce sites, Sears Holdings Corp., Costco and Office Depot Inc. topped Dynatrace’s holiday list for the period of Nov. 22 and Dec. 22. All three posted average mobile load times faster than 2 seconds, at .855, 1.551 and 1.874 seconds, respectively. The faster load times on mobile devices is explained in part by the controlled nature of the mobile survey,  as the phones were in an isolated environment with no programs running in the background, Dynatrace says.

Besides Costco, Amway and Dell Inc. placed on both the desktop and mobile top 10 lists, Dynatrace says.

Costco, Amway and Apple were also the in the top three slots during Black Friday and Cyber Monday Week, with sites that loaded on computers on average in 3.008, 3.718 and 4.360 seconds, respectively, says David Jones, Dynatrace’s mobile and web performance expert.

Still, Jones says e-retailers should shoot for a three-second response time for both mobile and desktop, as after that consumers will exhibit signs of frustration, such as leaving the page or refreshing. A Harris Poll survey Dynatrace commissioned found that 46% of all smartphone and tablet users indicated that they will abandon an app or web site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. The poll surveyed 2,060 U.S. adults between Oct. 8-10, 2014. 

“Even the top performers have to improve,” Jones says.

Some retailers have lots of room for improvement. The three slowest-loading retail sites on desktop computers took 11.37, 12.37 and 12.74 seconds to load during the week of Dec. 22 to Dec. 29. Dynatrace did not name those retailers.

One reason for the disparity in page load times is the big difference in the number of elements on retail web sites. The companies in the top 10 in terms of computer load times had an average of 91 objects per page, compared to 206 objects per page for companies in the bottom 10.

In addition, companies in the top 10 had an average of 22 hosts, or third parties that are called on to load on the page, such as an ad network tracker or a social media component that shows a consumer what her Facebook friends have Liked. Companies in the bottom 10 had an average of 56 hosts.

“While that does create a very engaging experience for end-users, it comes at a cost,” Jones says. “In those applications when you interact, they increase the time it takes for the page to load, and from a performance standpoint, that can be detrimental to the end-user, to find a product as fast as possible.”

Likewise, fast-loading sites make fewer requests to a server—37 for the top 10 compared to 102 for the bottom 10.

After not ranking in the top 10 during Black Friday and Cyber Monday week, Cabela’s Inc. and Macy’s Inc. moved up to the top 10 in the desktop study for the Dec. 22 through Dec. 29 week, bumping Target Corp. and Office Depot Inc. off the list.

Dynatrace conducted the mobile site survey using three iPhones, all 4G connected to the networks of AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp. and Verizon Communications, in three locations: Boston, Chicago and Santa Clara, California, for a total of nine agent connections.

Top-ranked Sears is No. 9 in the 2015 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, Costco, No. 33, was second, and Office Depot Inc., No. 16, ranked third for average fastest load times during Nov. 22 through Dec. 22.

Optimizing a mobile site can make a big difference, Jones says, and one way to do that is to limit connections to other web servers. The fastest mobile sites connected to an average of five third-party sites, compared to 22 for the slowest sites. The worst smartphone load time was 17.871 seconds. 

Jones also says that as 4G has become more popular mobile users have gotten less patient with poor performance. He points out that the Harris Poll survey revealed 80% of consumers say that they will abandon a mobile app or web site if it is buggy, slow or prone to crashes. Consumers on smartphones, Jones says, now are “just as demanding as anyone sitting in front of their laptop.”

Follow mobile business journalist April Dahlquist, associate editor, mobile, at Internet Retailer, at @MobileInsiderAD.




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