eCommerce mobile web performance uncovered… the good, the bad and the ugly – Part 1

Date: 23rd January 2015
Author: Deri Jones

SciVisum’s survey of ten top online UK retailers show the need to do more for the mobile consumer

xmas-mobile-ecommerce-survey-report-coverJan 2015 – Today we released our “Christmas 2014 eCommerce Mobile Experience Report – Part I”. The findings show that retailers are still falling short of delivering a satisfactory mobile experience and reveal a large gap between the best and the worst mobile web performers in the UK eCommerce sector.

Despite mobile now being the browsing device of choice in the UK, the key findings revealed poor page delivery times and large mobile page sizes.

Slow loading pages is be the biggest issue for consumers and perhaps the biggest surprise of the survey was two out of the top ten online retailers offering full sized desktop sites to mobile devices, with no mobile-friendly features at all.

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, on both desktop (Firefox) and mobile (Android) browsers.

In the run up to Christmas and particularly on Black Friday, UK websites could have prepared better for demand from mobile consumers by optimising their page content, not to do so it to risk losing sales as a result of consumer frustrations.

A small number of leading eTailers have heeded the warnings of poor mobile experience and consistently delivered a far better user experience than the worst offenders. However it is clear that many UK eTailers still need to get their house in order to take advantage of the mobile opportunity.

mCommerce and the need for speed

The latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows that online sales in 2014 exceeded £100bn in the UK alone, the first time it has passed such a landmark figure. Last year also saw mobile browsing overtaking the desktop for the first time. Even though IBM analytic reports and IMRG Capgemini benchmark figures clearly demonstrating mobile devices have taken the lead for retail browsing, companies are struggling to keep pace. Recently Google has also recognised the mobile phenomena by ranking websites as ‘mobile-friendly’.

Furthermore it’s not only browsing by mobile that’s more popular, mCommerce is also on the increase with 47% of online sales being driven by mobile on the same day.

However on the downside mobile consumers have high performance expectations; 90% perform tasks across multiple devices and 72% demand the same quality of experience as desktop. They are also less patient and less tolerant. Delivering fast, available web performance across devices has never been more critical.

Slow sites are a major cause of abandonment and moreso with younger consumers. 1 second may sound like a short amount of time to most people but for eTailers,  a 1 second delay can have a significant impact on brand perception and bottom line. Recent research by Radware shows that even a 1 second delay in mobile page load times can damage conversions resulting in:

·                increased bounce rates by 8.3%
·                decreased page views by 9.3%
·                decreased cart size by 2.1%

Research also shows that a high percentage of users experiencing problems with mobile will turn to a competitor’s mobile site. Conversely good mobile experiences are almost equally likely to lead to positive recommendations, with the majority of mobile consumers stating they have recommended a brand based on mobile performance.

Page delivery way too slow

Only three out of ten retailers websites loaded on a mobile device in less than 2 seconds. It means an astonishing seven of the top ten leading online retailers had pages that are not ‘mobile-friendly’ by taking an unacceptably long time to load.

Variables of the mobile networks were eliminated from testing by using fixed injectors but over a 3G connection even the better loading times would increase and become unacceptable.

Google’s expectation is for page delivery ‘Above The Fold’ in less than 1 second and 2 seconds is now a common consumer expectation for page delivery.  Yet the average page took more than 3 Seconds to deliver to a mobile device across all eTailers monitored. In the worst case (on a responsive site) average page delivery time for Android browsers was 8.5 Seconds, quite unacceptable for a leading UK brand name. In the best case 1 of the 10 sites had mobile pages that loaded within 1 Second.

Availability’s looking up

On average page availability was good and similar on both desktop and mobile, averaging around 98% across all journeys for the whole survey. Availability across all sites dropped to 96% on Black Friday and in the worse case dropping to 93% on one leading eTailer’s site, indicating that some were not ready for high levels of traffic.

Page size much too large

Despite the fact that mobile pages should be optimised, 3 out of the top 10 UK eCommerce sites had mobile pages which were actually similar in size or even larger than the same page delivered to desktop browsers. The worst was almost 3 times the size of it’s desktop counterpart.

On the positive side, 70% of sites did reduce page sizes for mobile devices– on average by more than 50%. The majority of sites (60%) had page sizes between 500Kb – 1Mb. Quite shockingly the average page size was 2.2 M – way too large for mobile devices perhaps skewed by a couple of huge pages from the two worst offenders. The cuplrits had average product page sizes of 2Mb and 15Mb with more than 90 images on each. Images were primarily responsible for the extreme sizes and on a responsive site both JavaScript and images jointly accounted for the vast page size.

In defence pages are much longer nowadays and as such time to load content ATF will be slightly better than the results suggest.

Part 2 of our 2015 mCommerce user experience blog will summarise how sites implemented mobile web, how well prepared they were for Black Friday, reveals the Best Performers as well as tips on how to overcome the risks of mobile, to increase conversion rates and customer loyalty.

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

Further reading:

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

Blog: eCommerce performance: Are tablets a bitter pill?