Website performance problems are annoying for shoppers and risky for ecommerce retailers. That’s particularly true during the Cyber 5 period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
Online retailers can receive a spike in traffic as much as 10-times their normal levels during the Cyber 5, according to Lance Ullom, CEO of web performance vendor Blue Triangle.
Ecommerce sites must be able to handle that increased volume because each second of delay — whether from a website crash or an extremely slow-loading site — can bring sales and transactions to a standstill. This can mean millions of dollars in lost revenue during peak traffic.
“Every retailer’s competitor is a click away,” Ullom says. “When a shopper experiences outages and crashes, the retailer will lose that customer. In the past, retailers competed on price and convenience. But with everyone forced to shop online thanks to the pandemic, the game has changed. Consumer trust and loyalty is now driven by delivering a frictionless digital experience.”
Data from this year’s Cyber 5 period show that many retailers’ websites performed less than perfectly. The slowest-loading site among major retailers on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday was PetSmart.com, according to Blue Triangle. PetSmart Inc. ranks No. 132 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.
Blue Triangle bases its website performance ranking on metrics such as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures the time a website takes to show a user the largest content on the screen, complete and ready for interaction. According to Google’s Core Web Vitals Team, an LCP of 2.5 seconds or faster is considered good. An LCP between 2.5 and 4.0 seconds needs improvement, and greater than 4.0 seconds is considered poor.
PetSmart’s website had an LCP of 13.86 seconds on Thanksgiving, 13.84 seconds on Black Friday, and 13.40 on Cyber Monday.
Pet Smart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While many sites ran slowly, there were no major website outages during the Cyber 5 period this year. That’s a dramatic change from last year.
“The big surprise this year was that year-over-year peak online traffic levels dropped on both Black Friday (down 14%) and Cyber Monday (down 23%), likely due to online promotions starting way before the Cyber 5 and the return of heavier in-store shopping,”
The best performer during the Cyber 5 period according to Blue Triangle was BN.com, owned by Barnes & Noble Booksellers Inc., ranked No. 109 in the Top 1000. BN.com had an LCP of 0.2 seconds on Thanksgiving, 0.23 seconds on Black Friday, and 0.2 seconds on Cyber Monday.
Bots cause website performance problems
Niels Henrik Sodemann, co-founder and CEO of Queue-it, says many of the problems ecommerce websites faced this year can be traced to one thing.
“Bots. Period. Bot traffic has been increasing exponentially, and it now makes up 29.5% of all traffic to retail sites,” Sodemann said. “This adds to the load retailers have to cope with on major sales days. Our research indicates that more than 30% of the traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday was not the result of legitimate shoppers but by bots built to snatch up inventory.”
Queue-it offers virtual waiting rooms to retailers as a way to keep a website from crashing. When a site gets too busy, shoppers can be placed in the waiting room until the site can accommodate them.
Sodemann declined to say which of Queue-it’s retail customers faced bot attacks or other website performance issues during the Cyber 5 period. However, he did say, “there were a number of issues among big-box retailers, and limited product launches, specifically in the fashion and apparel space, exacerbated some of those issues.”
Queue-it data suggests that, on average, items bots purchased during the holiday shopping rush are then resold at a 75% to 100% price increase.
Stay on top of the latest developments in the ecommerce industry. Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 Retail News.