A great user experience boosts conversion rates by 400 percent. That’s not what you’re providing if your site takes 16.6 seconds to load.

Ryan Gellis, founder and CEO, Robofirm

Ryan Gellis, founder and CEO, Robofirm

recent study by Retail Systems Research revealed that the average e-retailer’s website took 9.5 seconds to load on mobile and 16.6 seconds on desktop. Those calculations are rather shocking when you consider that most online consumers will abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. Numerous sales are being lost simply because motivated consumers are being forced to wait.

E-retailers are not oblivious to this fact, but in their efforts to cut costs and open for business as soon as possible, they make a critical mistake: Instead of phasing in functionality in a staggered way to bring costs down, they outsource or try to hire midlevel employees to build everything right away. The resulting solutions might be adequate for the time being, but they are far from ideal — and their long load times directly compromise the user experience.

The consequences? Consumers get impatient with the wait. Orders drop. People complain to your customer service employees, who get frustrated after several similar encounters. The same people complain to their friends as well, and suddenly, you have a brand image problem.

Even established retailers such as Best Buy and Kohl’s have suffered these consequences firsthand. Both retailers experienced issues with their websites after a surge of traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consumers eager to take advantage of highly publicized deals were met with slow, buggy, or entirely unavailable websites. Not surprisingly, the reaction was less than positive.

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Never assume your user experience is perfect — always rely on users to confirm that fact for you.

Just the opposite is true when the user experience is perfect. A study from Forrester Research showed that a good user experience boosts conversion rates by 200 percent, and a great one boosts them by 400 percent. Anything capable of quadrupling sales deserves e-retailers’ attention.

How to Deliver a Compelling User Experience

An exceptional user experience combines creativity and technology. The experience of using your website — on mobile or desktop — should be intuitive from the start and effective on every return visit. To enhance your site speed and give your customers the best experience online, consider these strategies:

1. Implement application performance monitoring.

Tracking the performance of every application across servers allows you to gauge user experience with actual metrics. Using programs such as New Relic, you can accurately evaluate which aspects of the experience are successful and which need work. You can also use these metrics to identify and address dips in performance before they affect more consumers.

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2. Use aggregation and monitoring tools.

Handling large amounts of data in the form of logs is a time- and labor-intensive process that often produces spotty results. Unfortunately, without collecting and analyzing that data, there’s no way to see how programs are actually running to support your applications. Tools such as Datadog, which aggregates data and permits real-time monitoring, can highlight performance issues in less time.

3. Perform comparison testing.

The only way to know where a user experience is working is to put it in users’ hands. Tactics such as A/B testing and multivariate testing allow you to compare and contrast different aspects of a design against each other and objectively determine which versions have more appeal. Tools such as Optimizely and VWO can help you perform these tests. Never assume your user experience is perfect — always rely on users to confirm that fact for you.

The quality of the user experience is what distinguishes one e-retailer from another. Businesses that deliver a speedy and seamless experience will find customers sprinting to the checkout.

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Focused on user experience for e-commerce, Robofirm provides services in such areas as web development, performance management, digital marketing and strategy.

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