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M-commerce speeds Xmas sales risk

By Retail Technology | Wednesday November 20 2013

Benchmark data ranking UK retailersÂ’ online and mobile storefronts against the national average finds emerging m-commerce conversion rates could be at jeopardy

The latest online shopping benchmark data from performance technology company Compuware has found that, while holiday season web responsiveness is keeping pace with consumer expectations, mobile response times lag far behind.

To illustrate the impact of issues affecting e-retail website performance, the company will monitor key UK retailers’ e-commerce sites throughout the Christmas period; across traditional web and mobile site traffic; tracking response time, availability and consistency.

In data gathered for October and shared with Retail Technology, it is clear that web performance and resiliency have improved while mobile lags behind. Shopzilla UK recorded the fastest UK retail response time of 0.602 seconds and was followed by BizRate (0.626s), Next (0.692s), Argos (0.945s) and Tesco (0.962s).

Improved levels of holiday readiness 

John Van Siclen, general manager of Compuware’s application performance management (APM) business unit, acknowledged the speed improvements. 

“We’ve been doing holiday surveys and benchmarks across various industries for the last five years and retailers in particular have really done a phenomenal job in terms of highly tuning their e-commerce performance in holiday readiness,” he said. 

“We see sub-second response times now, when five years ago it was three to four times slower.”

But he also highlighted the gap this has created between the traditional e-commerce shopping experience and its mobile counterpart, given its growing popularity and predictions that the UK is set to have the highest mobile share of online sales of any European country during the holidays.

“What has changed is the dramatic shift taking place in the world of mobile computing,” said Van Siclen. “The variety of devices operating systems and browsers throws up 156 different combinations just to cover 80% of the market compared to developing for a Mac or a PC and two dominant browsers a few years ago. Now we have this ridiculous complexity at the edge of the internet around mobile.”

Mobile response times fall short

The October Compuware data found Shopping UK had the fastest response time via mobile (on the O2 network) of 2.500 seconds. Nextag came in second (2.511s), followed by Ciao UK (2.801s), Tesco (2.811s) and Maplin (3.436s) rounding out the top five performers. 

“It’s noticeable that the top five mobile response times are some five times slower,” commented Van Siclen, “and only Tesco appears in the top five of both rankings.”

The web performance expert admitted that network connectivity and performance could play a fairly sizeable factor is degrading mobile-optimised sites or app performance. 

“But if you go back five years, retailers soon figured out they had to optimise the routing of network traffic from the internet edge and ISP [internet service provider] to their sites, cutting the amount of ‘hops’ from 10 or 12 to four or five for the top ones,” he continued.

“The same thing will go on with the mobile communications companies and the routing paths, except it won’t be ISPs instead it will be network carriers.”

Industrialise mobile development

Van Siclen instead urged retailers to ensure any mobile applications development, in-house or by third party agencies, is optimised for the speed and performance that is critical to converting browsing mobile traffic into sales. For example, reducing a five second response time by 30% on a platform used by 50% of users will have a fairly dramatic and measurable business impact. 

“Retailers need to work, with carriers and other third parties to industrialise their development for the mobile web,” he concluded. will continue to cover the monthly reports that Compuware will be compiling to reveal how the performance of key UK retailers’ sites fares throughout the Christmas period.

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