More than half of consumers in a new survey said they will leave and buy from a similar retailer when they’re frustrated with slow ecommerce sites. But some brands score high marks for speed, while others prep for the influx of shoppers this coming holiday season.

When stores closed en-masse due to the coronavirus pandemic, more shoppers went online, testing the resiliency of retailers’ and brands’ ecommerce sites.

90% of shoppers will abandon a site if it doesn’t load in a reasonable time, according to a survey of 1,100 U.S.-based consumers conducted by Retail System Research (RSR) from April-May in a report released by ecommerce cloud platform Yottaa Inc.

Also in the report, RSR evaluated 80 retailers that rank between No. 25 and No. 130 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 across 18 different criteria for website performance. Criteria included time to render (or load), use of design, if site performance impaired navigation, responsive design (if the desktop experience easily translated to the mobile web), pop-up interferences, and how many third-party services are running on the checkout and login pages.

Out of a possible 54 points, Ralph Lauren Corp. (No. 76 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 500) scored the highest at 42.5 points in all performance criteria, followed by Tailored Brands (owner of Men’s Wearhouse and No. 150) at 40 points, and Foot Locker Inc. (No. 46) and Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands Inc. (No. 27), which both tied for third at 37.5 points.

“With consumers shopping primarily online and retailers desperate to make up lost revenue from recent bricks-and-mortar store closings, digital channels are the last frontier of survival for retail brands,” says Steve Rowen, managing partner, RSR. “Based on the findings from our new report, retailers that cannot rely on their online offerings’ ability to serve as their primary face to the consumers now face the very serious chance of extinction.”

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More than half (57%) of consumers surveyed said they will leave and buy from a similar retailer when they’re frustrated with slow ecommerce sites, while others will buy from Amazon instead (41%), never come back to the retailer (21%), post on social media about their experience (14%) and complain to the retailer (11%), according to the RSR consumer study.

When shopping on their smartphones, 32% said retailers make it easy to complete their purchase on a mobile device. However, 22% still prefer the desktop shopping experience, while some shoppers prefer to finish their purchase on the desktop because it’s more secure (14%) or because it’s faster and more convenient (14%).

As mobile shopping grows in its importance, RSR evaluated the mobile web load time for the 80 retailers. Ascena Retail Group (which owns brands such as Ann Taylor and Loft) had the fastest load time at 2.2 seconds. The slowest loading sites clocked in at 43.9 seconds, while the average load time for the 80 retailers evaluated was 7.02 seconds.

The top 10 fastest-loading mobile sites with loading times at 3 seconds and under include:

  1. Ascena Retail Group (No. 38)
  2. Groupon Goods (No. 62)
  3. 1-800 Contacts Inc. (No. 93)
  4. Overstock.com Inc. (No. 43)
  5. Lands’ End (No. 61)
  6. MidwayUSA Inc. (No. 100)
  7. L Brands (No. 27)
  8. Carter’s Inc. (No. 87)
  9. Ralph Lauren (No. 76)
  10. Express Inc. (No. 85)

Site speed is crucial as 52% of consumers surveyed find a slow site very frustrating. 40% find it slightly frustrating but are willing to wait, and 8% have not been frustrated by a slow website.

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How will retailers perform during this year’s Black Friday?

With the holidays approaching, retailers must ensure their ecommerce operations are reachable and perform efficiently for the inevitable influx of shoppers, especially with more retailers planning to close on Thanksgiving Day, driving more shoppers online.

Usually, retailers start planning and testing their site performance in August to prep for the holidays, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed them to plan earlier. According to a survey of 100 retail IT managers who took part in web performance monitoring company Catchpoint’s 2020 ecommerce survey conducted July 13-17, 58% began planning and testing earlier due to COVID-19, 26% started planning later than usual and 16% say the coronavirus has had no impact.

Additionally, 97% of respondents said their peak holiday traffic is higher than their usual non-holiday traffic. So, ensuring their sites are performing efficiently and loading quickly is imperative because a spike in holiday traffic creates a number of issues for retailers. 72% of respondents in the Catchpoint survey say their main pain points during the holidays are slow-loading pages, 50% say high bounce rates, 50% say inconsistent performance issues and 50% say functionality not working as expected.

In the RSR survey, nearly half of consumer respondents said they experienced a slow website during 2019’s Black Friday shopping. As a result, 26% abandoned the site and bought elsewhere, but 18% still completed the purchase. In addition, 15% experienced a website that was broken but was successful after they tried again later, while 8% abandoned a broken website and bought elsewhere.

“Back when bricks-and-mortar stores were receiving steady foot traffic, retailers were able to take their time working out the best strategy to move online,” Catchpoint writes in a blog post about the survey. “Digital initiatives that have been talked about for a long time, such as automating fulfillment, enhancing digital ordering, and integrating loyalty programs across channels are now being fast-tracked.”

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