Part 2: eCommerce mobile web performance uncovered

Date: 2nd February 2015
Author: Deri Jones

A vast gap in Mobile Web implementation between UK retailers.

Feb 2015 – Amidst the news from the IMRG that 2014 holiday season mCommerce sales were up 55% on 2013, we continue with Part 2 of our eCommerce mobile web experience results.

For those readers who have not yet seen Part 1 of our mCommerce performance survey results, the survey was carried out by monitoring the product pages on 10 of the UK’s leading retail websites over a 5 week period in the run up to Christmas 2014, on both desktop (Firefox) and mobile (Android) browsers…

Shockingly 2 out of 10 of the leading UK retail sites were still serving desktop sites – with no mobile features at all –  to Android users.

Despite having a dedicated mobile site, one retailer did not make this automatically available to mobile users; in fact there was not even a link to their mobile site on their homepage but instead it was necessary to Google for it.

In particular Apple served optimised mobile friendly pages to iOS browsers but not to Android. In fact sending much larger pages to Android users.

mobile-web-implementationOn the plus side, 70% percent of retailers were delivering separate mobile pages either from a dedicated or from the main domain. Not surprisingly the top two results from a performance point of view, were both delivered from dedicated m.sites. The responsive site had substantially slower page delivery times than the other sites.

Of those serving specific mobile pages, 71% were using a dedicated, the remaining 29% were detecting the device and serving the appropriate pages.

1 of the 10 sites had a fully responsive website design and 80% had fluid/partly responsive designs down to 10” tablets. Though 1 retailer was serving smartphone pages to a 10” tablet which is particularly frustrating for mobile consumers expecting full functionality on larger tablets.

Preparation for Peak Traffic

There were also some encouraging signs, as retailers had looked at preparing for the special offer days. Most companies, 60%, reduced their page sizes by nearly 20% for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. However, that meant 40% did little to help their customers or worse crammed more on to their web pages.

We detected a clear dip in availability on Black Friday as the huge online demand crashed or slowed many companies websites. Page download times were also slower on Black Friday for 6 out of 10 eTailers.  So although efforts were made, the huge demand still created challenges for users trying to view retailers websites.

The Best Performers

Marks and Spencer and John Lewis were amongst the best performers, consistently appearing at the top of the league tables for all metrics measured, both of these had dedicated mobile sites.

Those delivering desktop sites were amongst the worst performers, as was the fully responsive site.

eTailers were ranked based on a combination of page delivery time, availability and page size.

Top 3 Performers
1 M&S
2 John Lewis
3 Amazon

Forging improvements

It seems that delivering a good mobile experience is still in its infancy for many retailers, and these e-tailers have some way to go before mobile consumers receive the user experience the would expect. Though it is clearly possible as illustrated by the top performers. Possibly many retailers simply don’t yet appreciate the risks of poor mobile performance.

When user journey problems occur on mobile the fallout is far greater than desktop. Mobile users are less patient and less tolerant. But with continuous visibility of mobile experience retailers can overcome this, to increase both conversions and customer loyalty.

Of course there is a lot more to a great user experience than performance, usability and rich functionality are also necessary, and delivering both often involves a tricky trade off.

To deliver great mobile performance, it’s important to have an ongoing process to continuously test mobile journeys and ensure mobile performance is managed.  Using a high-touch monitoring service makes it possible to manage the complexities of delivering a website across multiple devices, without the hassle. Instead management can focus on driving the website and the business forward whilst knowing the site is delivering outstanding mobile experience.

User experience can vary widely on Android and iOS iphone/ iPad versions of a website, so it’s important to consider both mobile browsers when planning your mobile monitoring strategy.

We recommend these three steps to form a firm basis for delivering excellent mobile experience/getting mobile right:

1) Know what experience you’re delivering by ensuring key mobile journeys are being monitored 24/7 on both Android and iOS browsers.

2) Ensure mobile journeys can support peak traffic by load testing well in advance

3) Optimise… optimise… optimise

To help retailers overcome the complications of ensuring a positive mobile experience, we have recently launched a new mobile web monitoring service. The service continuously emulates iPhone, iPad and Android users making complete journeys across websites, providing uniquely realistic visibility of a site’s mobile experience.

The following retailers UK websites were monitored.

1. Amazon

2. Apple Store

3. Argos


5. Debenhams

6. John Lewis

7. Marks And Spencer

8. New Look

9. Next

10. Tesco Direct

To read the complete results download the 2015 Management Report for our eCommerce Mobile Experience survey here.

Part 1 of our mCommerce user experience blog summarises page delivery time, availability and page size findings.

Further reading:

Blog: Google gets serious about mobile user experience and so should you

Blog: eCommerce performance: Are tablets a bitter pill?