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For Revenue’s Sake, Make Website Performance a New Year’s Resolution

January 21, 2013 By Neil Garnichaud
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SmartBear Software's monthly ROI Report column, the Retailer Web Performance Report Card, kicks off 2013 by looking at how the top 50 retailers’ websites have performed for the first half of January. The holidays are over, but retailers’ websites need to operate optimally throughout the year for maximum revenue. SmartBear's AlertSite checks how retailers’ websites perform with respect to availability and response times, two critical elements I hope retailers have on their list of New Year's resolutions. So far, while there's always room for improvement, I like what I'm seeing in terms of site availability for many of the retailers. For response times, I hope many listen up and heed the warnings.

Among the top 50 retailers for the first half of January, the benchmark average for availability was 99.78 percent, up slightly from 99.66 percent for the same period in December. What I liked was that 19 of the top 50 retailers (38 percent) were at 100 percent availability — a great start to the new year. Apple, which often shines in this index, was among those at 100 percent. The company is generally among the top as a premier product mover during the holidays and throughout the year. No surprise, Apple Insider touted a big holiday quarter for both the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, and I think it's a huge advantage and no coincidence that Apple's website has been consistently available. The company also ranked No. 2 in response time at 1.7606 seconds, holding steady from the same spot last month.

Graph 1, For Revenue’s Sake, Make Website Performance a New Year’s Resolution
[+] click to enlarge

As web pages get more complex each year, keeping response time in mind becomes more critical. It's a fact that slow load times drive up bounce rates and turn visitors off brands. Pretty websites with lots of images are attractive, but if the pages don't load fast enough, few will hang around to click or buy. SmartBear recently conducted a study that found that 57 percent of travel website users will abandon a site after just three seconds — not good news with the average benchmark for response time this month among our retailers at 4.4349 seconds.

In particular, I'm disappointed with Barnes & Noble, which ranked No. 40 among the 50 retailers in response time with an average of 8.0465 seconds, nearly double the average. The company was in the same spot last month. Some sites’ visitors tend to be more forgiving than others, but visitors are only so patient when waiting to view pages. My advice to Barnes & Noble is to pay attention to those load times and keep it simple in 2013. The good news: Barnes & Noble ranked at the top for availability at 100 percent.


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