You only have mere seconds to grab a potential customer's attention, so glitches and slow website speeds can be costly for retailers.

Ajay Kapur, CEO, Moovweb

Ajay Kapur, co-founder and CEO, Moovweb

Many ecommerce websites are seeing increases in traffic since stay-at-home mandates have spread nationwide. Over 306 million Americans have been affected by shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, meaning nearly 95% of the U.S. population is confined inside because of the coronavirus pandemic. Consumers are flocking online at a higher rate, and that can affect the performance of retail websites.

Unfortunately, 70% of consumers say page speed influences their purchases, so glitches in external mobility can be costlier than ones in internal enterprise mobility. Amazon, for example, would lose $1.6 billion a year if its website took just one second longer to load.

You only have mere seconds to grab a customer’s attention. An average Gen Z consumer has an 8-second attention span, yet the average ecommerce website takes three to five seconds to load. If you can’t quickly guide consumers through the path to purchase before they lose attention, you will feel the effect on your bottom line.

Here’s how you can improve your website speed:

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1. Bring a culture of performance monitoring to your organization

Measure the performance of your essential website flows and measure it the right way. Ensure that the metrics are the simplest ones that matter and focus on the most important flows. Make sure the delivery team has the bandwidth and authority to meet your performance goals each sprint and that they integrate performance testing into their Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) process.

Retailers can measure website speed using dozens of metrics and even more tools. Many tools and metrics are dated, so make sure to:

  • Know which metrics are most important: You make more money when your visitors feel that the page has loaded. For an ecommerce website, that’s when the largest image above the fold has loaded. This is measured by Largest Image Rendered, Largest Contentful Paint, or Last Painted Hero, depending on the tool you use.
  • Measure browsing speed, not just first loads: While the first loads impact bounce rates, most of the customer journey is after the initial load. Browsing transitions affect conversion rates and both should be measured. Retailers can configure SpeedCurve and WebPageTest to measure browsing speeds.
  • Test on 4G, not 3G: Most tools still defer to 3G, but Google’s CrUX data shows that most consumers are on 4G. If you’re focused on speeding up experiences on 3G, you might slow down the website on 4G.
  • Use both synthetic and real user measurements: Synthetic tests, which simulate a page load, let you monitor how your website speed is impacted as part of your CI/CD and build process to ensure no release causes website speed regressions. Real-user monitoring (RUM) is the ultimate measure of shoppers’ website speed experience.

2. Improve your CDN’s cache hit ratio for database-backed content

cache hit ratio compares the number of successfully filled cache content requests to the total number of received requests. A high-performing Content delivery network (CDN) will have a higher cache hit ratio. Cacheable content served from your CDN is inherently faster than content served from your server, so improving your cache hit ratio is critical to improving overall website speed.

No two CDNs are identical, but you can typically improve cache hit rates through your CDN console or cache-control headers. Enabling caching isn’t always straightforward, though: Different pages will have different levels of cacheability, and some features (like personalization) will interfere with caching. This task is more straightforward and maintainable with a CDN that has edge-computing capabilities or, even better, understands your website code.

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3. Go headless with a cutting-edge, portable frontend

Going headless, or separating the frontend presentation from the backend logic, has several advantages. It optimizes the server, limits vendor lock-in for those moving away from monolithic stacks, and frees you to pick the fastest frontend available. Progressive web apps (PWAs) are a recommended option. PWAs are a type of application software delivered through the web, built using common web technologies including HTML, CSS and JavaScript. They’re quick, reliable, engaging and generally accepted in app stores.

However, PWAs alone will not get you to instant load times. There’s no silver bullet. You’ll need to add server-side rendering support and maybe AMP, too (if you have a lot of search traffic) to reach one- to two-second loads from landing through checkout. To break the one-second barrier, you’ll need to go further and bring intelligence to the edge.

Companies that are experiencing mobile latency, timeouts, and crashes are not alone. Even the world’s largest retailers—Amazon, Walmart, and Costco—experience massive failure from time to time. Learn from others’ mistakes, fix your mobility issues, and show your customers and clients that your company is cutting-edge.

Moovweb provides mobile commerce technology to 38 of the retailers in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

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