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Consumers demand for “digital excellence”

Posted by: Robert Stokes

How long do you wait for a page to load online before you give up?

 According to cyber security company Radware, in 1999 the average internet user was willing to wait 8 seconds for a page to load. By 2010, 57% of us said we couldn’t even last 3 seconds before abandoning ship and going elsewhere. 

Today, most of us will use our smartphones, tablets, iPads etc mostly for online shopping, browsing and posting on social media and for gaming. With the market of mobile apps constantly evolving and expanding, user expectations are at an all time high. Data gathered by Akamai and shows that 58% of mobile users expect their mobile sites to load almost as fast, if not faster, than their desktop pages. This level of expectation is largely led by the Millennials who have grown up surrounded by technology and the Internet.

Millennials, aged 18 to 34, the generation where mobile phones are constantly in hand, are driving a new era of demand for higher digital performance. From the point of view of retailers and e-commerce sites, they are under much more pressure than previous generations to adapt to this digital age. Erwan Paccard, Director of Omnichannel Strategy at digital software company, Dynatrace, says, “They [the Millennials] are demanding flawless customer experiences and are quick to be disappointed and complain on social media. Today companies win or fail based on their ability to deliver great customer experiences at every digital touchpoint along the shopping journey.” 

So, how much difference can a fraction of a second actually make? The simple answer: a big one. Just half a second difference in load speed can make a 10% difference in sales for an online retailer, says Dynatrace. North American retailer, Nordstrom, saw their online sales fall by 11% when its response time slowed down by half a second. When your total annual sales are around $14bn across 121 stores in the US and Canada, that’s a loss of tens of millions! Despite this, load speeds are actually getting slower. All of the adverts which run down the side of web pages and third party connections to the likes of Google and Facebook are significantly slowing down the connections. Australian sites have seen their average load times increase from 5.4 seconds in 2015 to 8.2 seconds this year and globally there has been a 7% increase from 4.2 seconds to 4.5 seconds since last year. So ironically, and annoyingly for these big retailers, the addition of their chat functionalities, higher graphics offering videos and 360 degree views and other add-ons, have actually got in the way of what they’re trying to do, which is ultimately to sell their products.

On a broader scale, away from just retail, most businesses will now have a mobile site along with their standard desktop site. Mobile usage massively exceeds desktop usage and is constantly growing, especially with more and more of us using smartphones to browse on the go. Due to this, mobile website load speeds must be addressed just as much, if not more than desktop sites, particularly those companies which don’t have a mobile app to add to their ever growing list of access points. For those who do have their own apps, such as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and many online retailers, for example, Asos, these apps must be easy to navigate, fast to load and provide a high quality user experience. Analytics platform, Kissmetrics, states that 40% of people abandon sites which take more than 3 seconds to load and 44% of people will tell their friends about a bad user experience they’ve had online, thus leading to further losses for businesses. Speed issues with apps can be easily identified and rectified by carrying out load and performance testing. These should be multi-device tests to ensure that navigation, layout and speed is consistent across all platforms, from the desktop site to the mobile app. 

The ultimate goal of businesses is to retain happy, long term customers. Peoples’ patience when it comes to online loading speeds has decreased, so the demand for digital excellence is at an all time high. With mobile sites and apps being developed, tested and modified every day to meet consumer expectations, what loading speed will eventually be quick enough and good enough? Will businesses continue to lose customers just because we can’t wait 3 seconds for a page to load, or are we expecting far too much?



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