During the 2010 holiday season, many retail websites failed to meet the performance demands of consumers who expect web pages to download in two seconds or less – even during peak traffic periods. End user abandonment rates rise 8% with an extra two seconds of wait time, meaning that slow websites can have a negative impact on revenues and profitability, as well as brand and consumer loyalty.
3 common mistakes shared by this year’s underperforming retailers:
- load testing isn’t a priority
- key stakeholders aren’t involved in the load testing process
- load testing isn’t conducted from the end user’s perspective
4 common lessons from this year’s most successful retailers:
1. EARLY AND THOROUGH PLANNING IS CRITICAL TO YOUR ONLINE SUCCESS
Allocate the appropriate time and effort to execute an effective load test. Such tests must take tinto consideration what pages, applications, customer segments and geographies need to deliver the best performance. By tackling these problems first, you’ll design a more streamlined, strategic load test that identifies critical bottlenecks – and give your team ample time to address issues.
2. BOTH MARKETING AND IT MUST BE CONSIDERED IN THE PLAN
First define what constitutes acceptable performance and conduct the tests based on those parameters. Marketing staff should be involved so they can share information on anticipated sales and growth projections in order for the load test to be scaled properly. IT staff must communicate the capabilities and limitations of the environment (how heavy loads will impact the customer experience given the realities of the current infrastructure.)
3. PROTECT YOUR CUSTOMERS FROM POOR THIRD-PARTY PERFORMANCE
Most sites today are a combination of elements served by an average of eight external hosts. Elements include: shopping carts, ratings and reviews, analytics and more. Any one of these services performing under par will slow down your entire web page. Your testing team needs to test all third parties providing features and functionalities to your site. If a third-party service fails to scale under load, your brand and business results will be affected – not theirs.
4. GEOGRAPHY, BROWSERS AND DEVICES…INCLUDE THEM ALL
Get direct perspective into the customer experience under various load sizes across the most common usage scenarios and key geographies. For example, are the majority of your customers Internet Exploer or Firefox users? Which mobile devices do you receive the most traffic from? Your end user in developed geographic regions generally expect the same high level of performance regardless of their usage scenarios. Therefore, your test plan needs to cover the most prevalent scenarios.
Don’t just survive this holiday season, THRIVE. Plan early. There’s no better time than the present to consider how the four lessons outlined here can improve on the work you did last year as you prepare to make the most of thise year’s peak shopping season.