With website load time affecting multiple critical business metrics including return visits, bounce rate, customer satisfaction and revenue speed has become an increasingly urgent issue for online retailers. To understand how this urgency has translated into improved web performance, Radware®, (NASDAQ: RDWR), a leading provider of application delivery and application security solutions for virtual and cloud data centers, today releases a new study titled,“State of the Union: Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance, Spring 2013.” Now in its fourth edition, the study reveals that website load time for the top 2,000 U.S. retailers slowed by 22 percent in just one year representing a significant degradation in performance.
To compile this year’s “State of the Union” report, Radware tested the website performance of the top 2,000 U.S. retail websites (as ranked by analytics firm Alexa.com) over a two-week period. An in-depth look at the page composition of each site in the Alexa Retail 2000 found that websites are plagued by more resource requests than ever before. From December 2011 to December 2012, the number of requests has risen by 8.22 percent due in part to an increase of website complexity and size, resulting in slower page load times and posing an additional challenge for retailers.
Additional key findings from the report include:
• The median load time for the Alexa 2000 retailers was 7.25 seconds - more than double the average user threshold of just three seconds or less. The gap between user demand and page performance continues to widen. If the current rate of slowdown remains consistent, the median retail page could take as long as nine seconds to load by the end of 2013.
• The top 100 retailers underperformed the rest of the pack even though many have made significant investment in support tools. Surprisingly, the top 100 sites had a load time of 8.23 seconds, a full 14% slower than the overall median load time of 7.25 seconds. Top sites are also slowing down at a faster rate: 28% compared to 22% for the top 2,000 sites.
• Mobile shoppers continue to pose a challenge for online retailers. Given the performance challenges posed by poorer process power and 3G networks, mobile users are more at risk of suffering significant usability handicaps.
• Firefox outperformed both Internet Explorer and Chrome. Firefox experienced the fastest median load time of 6.64 seconds, with Chrome clocking in at a median of 7.09 seconds and Internet Explorer 9 taking the last spot, with a time of 7.25 seconds. Regardless of browser vendors’ acute focus on speed, development is simply not keeping pace with the growing size and complexity of modern web pages.
• Many retail websites still do not follow core performance best practices. The survey found that only 25 percent of the Alexa 2000 retailers use a content delivery network (CDN), which allows site owners to cache static page resources to shorten server round trips. At the same time, 13 percent of sites also fail to enable “keep-alives” and 22 percent fail to compress resources. Using these best practices improves start render time, document complete and time to fully load all important performance indicators for complex websites.
“The fact that the median site has slowed down by 22% in just one year should be alarming for retail site owners,” said Joshua Bixby, vice president, application acceleration, Radware. “This is a massive drop in performance. If this slowdown rate goes unchecked, we will see median load times of 9 seconds or more, which is simply unacceptable for online shoppers. As pages continue to grow bigger and more complex, site owners need to take aggressive steps to mitigate this growth.”
For recommendations on next steps and access to a complete version of the report, please visit radware.com/stateoftheunion-us. An infographic on the findings of page speed and web performance can be viewed at radware.com/stateoftheunion-ig.
Methodology: “State of the Union: Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance Spring 2013”
Website load tests were conducted over a two-week period December 3-14, 2012 using Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 17 and Chrome 23 on a DSL connection. The tests in this study were performed using WebPagetest.org, an open source project primarily developed by Google, which simulates page load times from a real user’s perspective. Radware tested the home page of every site in the Alexa Retail 2000 three times in a row, with the median test results then recorded and used in calculations.
Radware (radware.com), is a global leader of application delivery and application security solutions for virtual and cloud data centers. Its award-winning solutions portfolio delivers resilience for business-critical applications, IT efficiency, and enhanced business agility. Radware’s solutions empower more than 10,000 enterprise and carrier customers worldwide to adapt to market challenges quickly, maintain business continuity and achieve improved productivity while keeping costs down.
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