Sweetwater boosted online sales 30% even though that meant a slower loading home page, according to the October desktop performance index.

Sweetwater.com sacrificed speed for sales.

The musical instruments retailer, No. 89 in the 2016 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, dropped eight spots to No. 17 in the October desktop performance index provided from No. 9 in September. The index, provided by digital performance analytics company Catchpoint Systems Inc., ranks the top 100 online retailers in the Top 500 Guide according to webpage load times for the weeks of Oct. 10-16 and 17-23.

Sweetwater.com increased its home page size to 2.15 megabytes from 1 megabyte in September, and increased the number of items on the page to 108 compared with 74 the previous month, according to Catchpoint. During that time period, the retailer ran a sale on some of its products and a 0% financing promotion over 36 months on 250 of its most popular brands, says Mike Clem, senior vice president of e-commerce.

“It was a combination of a huge response to the promotion, increased traffic and heavier than normal pages because of the amount of offers being featured,” Clem says.

The slower load time was fine with Clem because the promotion generated a 30% lift in sales over the same time period last year, he says.


Even though Sweetwater.com’s desktop home page was slower month over month—loading in 2.16 seconds in October compared with 1.66 seconds in September—it was still faster than the index average speed of 3.69 seconds.

New to the top 10 list this month are Systemax Inc. (No. 32 in the Top 500, although it recently shut down its consumer-facing e-commerce sites), Amway Global (No. 43) and Staples Inc. (No. 5), bumping off Sweetwater.com, Shop.com, (No. 59) and 1-800 Contacts Inc. (No. 84).

Here are the top 10 performers:

Shop.com dropped to No. 56 in October from No. 7 in September because of its increased home page size, hosts and items on the page, Catchpoint says. A host is any domain that delivers data, content or services over the internet to the site. Shop.com did not respond to a request for comment.

Further down on the index, Target Corp. (No. 22) increased its home page weight by almost 3 megabytes in October compared to September, yet still managed to maintain a consistent load time of 4.16 seconds compared to 4.11 seconds in September, Catchpoint says.


Target.com re-platformed its website over the summer to use responsive design with adaptive techniques, which typically helps improve web performance. So far, the retailer is pleased with the results, a Target spokesman says.

Catchpoint Systems monitors each website’s home page with measurements taken from Catchpoint Systems’ in-country or in-region monitoring nodes, at intervals of five minutes for two weeks each month. Backbone monitoring nodes are the locations of Catchpoint’s devices that are near data centers operated by the main Internet Service Providers that provide service to a city. The nodes simulate end-user contact with each website. Catchpoint monitors webpage load time, availability, hosts and items. They are defined as follows:

Webpage load time: The time it takes for enough page elements to load for a consumer to begin interacting with a page, such as searching, tapping or scrolling. From a consumer point of view, the time it takes for the progress bar or spinning wheel to stop.

Availability: The percentage of time during the test week that the site can be successfully reached by a consumer.

Host: Any domain that delivers data, content or services over the internet to the site.


Items or Requests: Webpage components, such as files or images that a page loads from internal and external hosts or domains. These can include PDFs, PNGs, JPEGs and GIFs.

The top 10 retailers of the top 100 retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide are ranked based on their desktop webpage load times.

For the two weeks from Oct. 10-23, the average desktop webpage load time among the top 100 retailers was 3.69, an increase from last month’s 3.33 seconds. The average total downloaded onto the desktop site home page was 2.75 compared with 2.67 megabytes the previous month. The websites were available 99.77% of the time compared with 99.78% last month. The average number of hosts was 75 compared with 52.38 in September. And the average total number of items on the home page was 227 compared with 172.89 last month.