Consumers expect sites to load faster than ever and 22% won’t return if they encounter a problem.

Making online consumers wait three seconds isn’t going to get an e-retailer far these days. The percentage of consumers willing to wait two or more seconds for a web page to load is shrinking.

A 2014 survey of nearly 3,500 consumers around the world found 51% were willing to “wait patiently,” or more than two seconds, for a web page to load. That’s compared to 63% who said they were willing to be patient five years earlier. Market research firm TNS ran the 2014 survey commissioned by web performance firm Akamai Technologies Inc.

30% of consumers in the 2014 survey expect a page to load in less than one second, versus 5% who said the same in 2009. Further, 18% of consumers expect a page to load instantly. “Instant” wasn’t an answer option in 2009.

According to Top500Guide.com data on the 500 largest North American e-retailers by sales, nine Top 500 retailers’ desktop sites load in less than 1 second, 60 load in 1.1 to 2 seconds and 110 load in 2.1 to 3 seconds. The remaining 321 Top 500 e-retailers take more than 3 seconds to load in tests conducted this spring by web performance management vendor Dynatrace.

Akamai, in its analysis of the survey results, says consumers’ expectation for speed and their willingness to wait are the same regardless of the device they use to access the web. If they encounter a slow-loading or stalling site, 50% will go to another site to accomplish their task and 22% won’t return to the site where they encountered problems.  

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Consumers on smartphones encounter the greatest number of “dissatisfying experiences,” Akamai says. The vendor says the top two responses about what constitutes a dissatisfying experience are that the site was slow to respond or the site was not available. 39% of smartphone users reported dissatisfaction, as did 35% of tablet users and 25% of desktop users.

That dissatisfaction may be keeping some consumers from shopping on smartphones and tablets. 9% say they prefer to shop online on their mobile device, whereas 76% prefer to shop on their desktop computer.

That could spell trouble for e-retailers with slow-responding sites because consumers on mobile devices are more active web shoppers than desktop users, and they spend more, the 2014 survey found. 15% of mobile users say they search the web for products daily, versus 5% of desktop users. 35% of mobile users make an online purchase at least once a week, versus 15% of desktop users. In the course of a year, tablet shoppers will spend $2,436 online, smartphone shoppers will spend $2,352 and desktop shoppers will spend $1,584, the survey says. 

“E-commerce sites must provide this new generation of mobile shoppers rich, satisfying web experiences across devices, browsers, platforms and networks, or risk losing their greatest source of future revenue,” Akamai says in its survey analysis.

Learn more about how e-retailers can prepare for and manage site performance issues in “Peak Performance,” from the April issue of Internet Retailer magazine

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