E-Commerce Websites Are Getting Slower

Average loading times have slowed by as much as nine percent since last year, according to a new study by Strangeloop.

Last year the median loading time for an online retail web page was 5.94 seconds, as viewed on Internet Explorer 9. This year, that time has risen to 6.50 seconds, according to a report released by optimisation firm Strangeloop Networks. This data indicates a worrying trend for an e-commerce manager.

The report has been conducted by Strangeloop since 2010. The Vancouver-based firm measured the performance of the top 2,000 e-commerce sites as listed by Alexa Internet, which happens to be an Amazon subsidiary. Strangeloop ran these sites on a simulator that recreates the browsing experience of users from anywhere in the world, using any browser.

Page loading speeds are an integral metric for online retailers to be aware of, as it is proven to have a direct influence on bounce rates and conversions. The fact that websites are slowing down is therefore definite cause for concern, and there’s no easy solution.

E-Commerce website loading times by Strangeloop Networks.

E-Commerce website loading times by Strangeloop Networks.

Strangeloop identifies that among the sampled websites, page sizes have been increasing on average, with larger amounts of high-quality videos, images and advertisements. The report found that the average page size has increased by five percent since last year.

Joshua Bixby, Strangeloop’s CEO, explains that many e-commerce businesses aren’t maximising their hosting, development and optimisation investments to increase site performance.

“This data tells us that when it comes to performance, many retailers are still leaving money on the table. Site owners should be conducting routine tests across a variety of browsers,” Bixby says. “They should be measuring performance using a variety of metrics, and they need to ensure third-party scripts have been optimised. Implementing these basic performance tenets will drastically improve revenue.”

The report highlights the fact that e-commerce sites are becoming bigger and heavier than advances in network and browser performance can account for. If this trend continues, it will ultimately affect sales.


3 thoughts on “E-Commerce Websites Are Getting Slower”

  1. Hum this is a interesting article and this quote kind of surprises me – “If this trend continues, it will ultimately affect sales.”. Fact is that online sales are not declining or slowing even though the report says speed is slowing. The page size and the download time are one issue. But if that is due to better and more media rich content then I would say that it probably offers a better user experience. Of course we cannot really look at US based results and necessarily apply those to the local market.

    There is also a trend for a lot more functionality to be available in ecommerce websites. This again is driven by user expectation and also by the market. The more functionality may mean more impact on performance. A big mistake we often see is lots of social media feeds added to an online store without consideration for performance or how they affect the site security. Some social media plugins can be very slow and the user experience therefore not so good.

    Adding functionality, plugins and the like for the sake of it (just because you can) may not be what your customers and visitors really want. Sometimes the KISS approach will deliver a better result i.e. sometimes less is better.


  2. Campbell, this is what I’ve been saying for what seems like forever, many Aussie developers and online business owners are completely oblivious to the effects of speed on sales.

    Both Microsoft and Google did research showing that every second of delay resulted in a 10% drop in revenue.

    More recently the New York Times ran a story showing that most users will only wait less than the blink of an eye for a page to load.

    Walmart did its own research and found that a 100 millisecond delay resulted in a drop or 1% revenue and a 500 millisecond delay amounted to a 20% loss in revenue.

    Why spend a fortune on advertising when speeding up your site can give you that sort of boost.

    John’s point about sales increasing needs to be taken in context. Total sales are only increasing because more customers and businesses are getting online. IE we have quantitative growth not qualitative growth.

    1. @Mark, yes total sales are increasing but also the average spend per person is increasing and is not declining. So more people are buying online and are spending more. We have also seen and average basket value increase so the average individual sales value is increasing. So there is definitely qualitative growth but the point is should it be better.

      But having said that I do agree with you that some fat and overstuffed websites are probably causing visitors to exit early. There is a tendency for some online stores to be hosted overseas due to the lower cost. Couple the fat websites with overseas latency and you compound the issue.

      Speed will have an impact on sales revenue in certain situation and types of online stores. For B2B it has little or no impact. In B2C it depends on the merchant and sector. Visitors or consumers looking at some sites with complex and large volumes of content will wait for content to load. It also depends where the visitor has come from, if from organic search there is a degree of impatience – the “I want it now syndrome”. Google Adwords now weights speed as a factor of the quality on a keyword, ad or campaign.

      However customers going directly to a online store that they know or are registered with will be far more tolerant of performance.

      So you basically can’t just generalise.


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