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ANALYSIS Top 50 online retailers perform well as the Christmas rush continues

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by Mark Gunn of Compuware Gomez

A reported £2bn was spent by UK shoppers last weekend and many retailers will aim to continue to take full advantage of what promises to be a bumper Christmas build up. With the prospect of record-breaking sale figures at stake, after what has been a difficult year for retailers, it’s vital retail websites don’t buckle under the strain of thousands of visitors looking to find the right gifts ahead of the big day.

But just how well have the websites of retailers been coping in the build up? To answer some of those questions, Compuware Gomez ran a series of tests to compare the web performance speeds of 50 of the UK’s biggest retailers on December 3, and throughout the two weeks after Cyber Monday. Ten ‘Last Mile Tests’ were carried every hour on each of the 50 sites to test landing page response times.

Results showed Tesco coming out on top throughout the whole two-week period with near 100% availability and average response times in the order of 1.5 seconds, beating the next best performer by around half a second.

Across all the sites examined, the benchmark figures showed an average response time of 6.369 seconds on Cyber Monday itself, followed by 6.084 seconds the week after and then 5.891 seconds last week. The story for availability showed the same improving trend. Sites were on average 98.48% available on Cyber Monday itself, rising to 98.84% the next week and then 98.91% last week. The worst performing sites also showed improvements with the bottom site rising from an average response time of 15.2 seconds in the first week to 12.2 seconds in the second.

The top five performers in terms of response times were consistent over the two-week survey period, with big names Tesco, Apple and Argos all having home pages that loaded in less than 2.5 seconds.

Although 17 retailers scored 100% availability on Cyber Monday, only two sites showed consistency over a week. M and M Direct had 100% availability for the first week of testing, but then dropped back marginally to 99% in the second, and Boots which had 98.4% availability the first week but then rose to the challenge and reached the optimum 100% level for the second week.

Performance in terms of availability in general was more consistent across the board, with 29 bettering 99% availability in each of the weeks starting December 3 and 10, while only 26 were recorded as doing so on Cyber Monday. Notable winners in availability were Game, Tesco and John Lewis.

But why are these split seconds so important anyway? A study by the Aberdeen Group into ecommerce site performance found that a one-second performance delay reduces sales conversions by seven per cent, a figure which can represent £2.55 million a year lost for a £100,000 per day site. Worth getting right then.

Top ten UK retail sites, by web performance, in the week from December 10

Source: Compuware Gomez

Average response time Availability

Tesco 1.651 secs 99.28%

Shopzilla 2.001 secs 99.28%

Apple UK 2.206 secs 98.92%

BizRate 2.312 secs 99.52%

Argos 2.796 secs 99.15%

Homebase 3.255 secs 99.04%

Asos 3.344 secs 99.52%

Ikea UK 3.62 secs 99.04%

AVG 3.775 secs 99.52%

Dell UK 3.876 secs 99.4%

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