Bridesmaid dress retailer Revelry knew its ecommerce site needed to speed up.
The sitewide average load time was about 7 seconds, which doesn’t sound terrible, says Alena Wells, director of marketing for the web-only merchant. But that average masks some pages that were huge problem areas, such as its category landing page that shows all of its bride dresses, Wells says. That page averaged 12 seconds to load but could take anywhere from 30 to 50 seconds to load, she says. In short, it was really not good, Wells says.
“Customers would complain in product reviews and even Instagram messages about how slow our site was,” Wells says. “It made us cringe every time anyone would say something about it.”
ShopRevelry.com uses the BigCommerce ecommerce platform. And in 2019, it hired one of BigCommerces’ preferred technology partners DigitlHaus Agency to manage its site speed and user experience. The retailer was due for an upgrade from BigCommerce and front-end update, and site speed was one of Revelry’s main motivators to update its site, Wells says.
After about six months, Revelry relaunched its site in May 2020. And the impact on speed was immediate. The sitewide average is now about 4 seconds, and that category page load decreased to 3.4 seconds from 12 seconds. Overall, the site’s page load time decreased 43% after the relaunch compared with before, mostly from updates on BigCommerce’s end to its platform structure.
Customers noticed too: The bounce rate, or shoppers leaving a page, decreased sitewide by 8% and decreased 37% on the all-dress category page as of mid-September compared with before the relaunch, Wells says. Revelry attributes bounce rate directly to site speed, as the retailer knows shoppers will leave and not wait for a page to load.
The site’s conversion rate also increased 30% after the redesign compared with before, Wells says. This could be partly attributed to site speed, but could also be attributed to a number of factors, including the overall redesign and driving more qualified traffic to the site, Wells says.
Revelry’s ongoing site speed work
Having a fast site, however, is an ongoing initiative that Wells constantly has to keep an eye on. For example, in mid-September Revelry decided to scrap a site feature it wanted to add because it would weigh down its page load time, she says. On a search results page, each product image has an arrow that allows a shopper to scroll through several images of that product before the site redirects her to the product detail page. This enables shoppers who are just casually browsing to see multiple looks of one dress, without having to navigate away from the search results page.
Revelry was hoping to expand the number of pictures a shopper could flip through to all of the available images for that product—often 10—before the site redirects to the product detail page. This feature would require an extra script on the page, which DigitlHaus advised Revelry against, saying it would hurt the page load speed, Wells says.
“The new shopping experience on that page would reverse some of the work we had done to make the page faster, so we decided, forget it. It’s not worth the return to make it slower,” she says.
This cost-benefit analysis is difficult without actually implementing the feature. Wells weighs speed and site features by asking herself three questions:
- Is the feature going to better educate our customers?
- Is it going to attract new customers?
- Is it going to lift conversion?
If she can confidently answer yes for at least two of these questions, typically the site feature is worth the slow down, she says. The additional photos feature did not pass this test, so Revelry moved onto other site features.
One of the site features that Revelry decided might be worth a possible site speed slowdown was adding videos to several of its product pages. For seven of its bridesmaid dresses, there are multiple ways shoppers can tie the straps to create different looks. Revelry decided to add videos on how to tie the straps to these seven product detail pages because it will help educate the shopper on the dress and likely lift conversion on it, Wells says. The feature went live on Sept. 17, so Wells plans to keep an eye on the performance of these product detail pages and the sales impact for these dresses.
Revelry has 20 employees, so there is no team dedicated to site speed. Instead, Wells monitors site speed in relation to site features and relies on DigitlHaus, she says. DigitlHaus charges Revelry an hourly rate for ongoing maintenance, and the recent sitewide upgrade was $30,000, Wells says.
Going forward, Wells also plans to monitor the site’s images in relation to site speed. Considering the site is on an older version of its ecommerce platform, images that were too big also slowed its site before the relaunch. Revelry resized these images, which also helped decrease the speed, but in the future, Revelry may look into alternatives. For example, the retailer may have the images hosted by a third party and not directly on the site to help improve speed if needed, she says.
How Revelry fared in 2020
For 2020 overall, Revelry’s business is thriving, Wells says. While many apparel retailers, and especially apparel retailers that sell formalwear and special event attire, may have taken a sales hit during the pandemic, Revelry has thrived, she says. The retailer is lucky in that it has no stores and offers a home-try on program, so shoppers can try on multiple dresses at home without purchasing all of them.
“Shopping at home is exactly what people need to do to plan their wedding and that’s exactly what we offer,” Wells says.
During the pandemic, many couples may have postponed their weddings or have opted for smaller celebrations. But, Wells says, many brides still want their sisters and best friends to be part of that micro-celebration as bridesmaids. Therefore, its sales have not taken a hit, even if weddings are smaller. Plus, many brides are still planning for weddings in 2021, so the retailer is still generating sales for those future weddings.Favorite