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GUEST COMMENT Why retail websites should ignore website latency at their peril

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For the average internet user, speed is everything. Consumers demand a web experience that provides what they’re looking for without delay. When they encounter sites that load slowly and don’t live up to expectations, consumers don’t sit around and wait – they turn elsewhere to source what they want.

This climate of user demand for speed and efficiency is the governing reality of Internet commerce today. The Internet has created a serious boon for retailers, providing a direct, simplified route to their customers. But that ease and simplicity can often lead to complacency, as retailers sit back and wait for the money to roll in from customer shopping online. The truth is, it’s not that simple.

Imagine you went shopping in an actual shop, found the product you wanted, and walked to the checkout only to find no one at the till to serve you. Would you stand around waiting for the cashier to finally show up? Of course not. There are plenty of other retailers out there offering the same product that have their facilities in order and are prepared to assist customers as quickly as possible.

It’s no different online. Online shoppers demand a quick, efficient, and effective service. When they don’t find that on a site, they find it somewhere else.

Site latency, the time it takes for a page to fully load on a user’s browser, makes all the difference in deciding whether or not a consumer commits to a purchase online. When a retail site takes too long to load, customers will abandon shopping carts and look to alternative sources for the products they need, which often ends up being direct competitors. A number of factors can affect site latency in both positive and negative ways, but third-party vendor tags frequently have the highest impact on how fast a site can load. Generally, the more tags there are on a site, the more time it will take to load.

You might want to stop me right there and say that this isn’t an issue for your business because you don’t have many tags implemented on your site. But our research has shown that the top retail companies on average have 75 individual tags on their sites. This situation happens when a third-party tag vendor introduces other tags onto your site without your knowledge, which is a common occurrence for most websites. Your third-party vendors can end up calling fourth, fifth, or even sixth-party tags to your site. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how sites end up with so many tags.

With such a high number of average tags on sites, this is an issue that your IT team cannot easily deal with. Which tags on your site are slowing down the site and which ones are working properly? Which tags are creating security gaps? It can be quite difficult to sort through them all to find the answers.

The key is to have a comprehensive marketing cloud management strategy that will allow your IT teams to accurately evaluate the tags on your site and pinpoint which ones are causing issues. Effective marketing cloud management is based on a few measures that every online retailer should follow:

Improving Performance

By reviewing tag performance and identifying the worst performing vendors, some simple steps can be taken towards improving the performance of your site. With full knowledge of all the tags on your site, you can discuss the possibility of revising or improving these problematic tags with your vendors. In more serious circumstances, have them removed immediately.

Auditing Your Vendors

By auditing all the vendors within your marketing cloud, each can be evaluated to see where and how they’re gaining access to your site. This level of site transparency allows you to make smarter decisions about which vendors should and shouldn’t be there. You can even establish whitelists and blacklists to ensure that only those vendors you choose are able to access your site and customers. To ensure that changes you have made are not undone, it’s important to continuously monitor these vendors.

Tightening Security

Potential security risks can also be identified and eliminated with increased transparency into your site’s tags. Whilst hacking and data theft are certainly important issues, mixed content warnings caused by non-secure tags on secure pages will often lead to a drop-off in customer conversions – as Ghostery discovered in a recent study with the Ponemon Institute.

While the threat of increased site latency can have a severe impact on your customer conversions and sales, retailers should take solace in the fact that this problem is more than manageable. By emphasising site performance and proper marketing cloud management, retailers can encourage improved customer conversion and retention.

Damian Scragg is managing director EMEA, Ghostery


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