According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in under 2 seconds and they tend to abandon a site that isn't loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won't return to the site to make a purchase again.
It's really a question of ROI for most entrepreneurs and e-commerce operators. Should they make the investment required in technology to make their websites faster or will folks just wait and wait for the site to load?
If you look at your homepage abandonment rate, probably close to half of the visitors who left were probably because it was taking too long for the page to load. Though this is a very unscientific measure, you could install various speed and performance testing software like Gomez and still come to the same conclusion.
These days there are very few monopolies on the web. Perhaps only government websites like the DMV. For everything else, we are competing for the same dollar. When it comes to where folks can elect spend their dollars, for the same item, customers have a lot choices. So most e-commerce websites compete for that same dollar. A frustrated shopper will abandon your site, go to another site or shop offline and most likely never return.
This is why the argument is made that consumers won't be waiting around for your site to load when they can just as easily click away and shop from someone else's website, possibly your competitor.
Now I would never make the argument that speed and site load is the most important factor in making a purchase one online store. Price, trust, and overall user experience certainly play a much bigger role in their decision-making process. However, for the first-time buyers from your website you set a horrible precedent when you make them wait to simply load your homepage. That is why a slow website is the biggest barrier to purchase.
How fast your website loads is not just a function of your hardware. Rather it's contingent on multiple factors.
- Data Access Points - how long does it take dynamic data to be recalled for your database? How is it stored? And is it cached?
- Hardware - faster is better. But the more of your infrastructure that is leveraged onto a CDN like Akamai, the less of an impact your own serving infrastructure will have. But still very essential.
- Hosting Provider - where you host, who they are, their connection to the Internet and how clean it is. This is all about Hops.
- Images - Though there is a direct correlation between image quality and conversion, it is important to evaluate how large images are, how image heavy each page is? Where are images being stored and how quickly are they being served to the customer. Using a CDN like Akamai is imperative for the same best experience around the world to the end-user.
- Global Distribution - your website should serve equally around the world or wherever you are specifically targeting your commerce efforts. However, if your data center is physically located in California and most of your customers are in New York, it is taking them unnecessary hops to get to the website. So it is imperative that you choose a hosting facility and a CDN that can allow you to be globally load balanced and distributed. All this means is that the page is served to the customer in New York from New York and the customer in Los Angeles from a facility in Los Angeles. Most CDN have hundreds, if not thousands of nodes around the world. But the first step in evaluating a CDN's relevance is to look at your customer base on them and make sure your CDN can adequately serve them.
One great tool that we like for evaluating all of the parts and infrastructure and the various page load times is New Relic Insights (http://newrelic.com/insights). The price for the tool varies from a hundred dollars a month to a few thousand. But they do offer a free month trial that allows you to fully evaluate your infrastructure down to the SQL statements that could potentially cause a bottleneck or delay in response time.
All of these factors contribute to how fast your site will load across the world. Optimizing your website is a process. The first step is to evaluate where you are the slowest, and where you can make the most gain. But rest assured that any gains made in speed, is directly correlated to increasing your conversion rates.