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GUEST OPINION Big trouble on a little device

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The latest research by online retail specialists Summit has found that slow loading websites will have cost UK retailers £8.5 billion in 2013. So, for a retailer turning over £10 million online this could translate to a loss of almost £1 million in revenue. This paints a bleak picture for retailers as frustrated shoppers either leave the site or buy less. And with social media ever more prevalent, consumers can share their angst with peers further damaging brand image. Hedley Aylott, CEO of Summit urges retailers to address the problem of site speed now.

Shopping on mobile devices hit record peaks this Christmas, with some of our clients reporting up to 50% of their sales being made this way. And despite many retailers having a mobile optimised site available, there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to speed performance. And this is an issue that is significantly downgrading the mobile shopping experience.

For too long retailers have viewed website speed as a technical issue with little understanding of the wider impact it was having on their conversion rate and brand image. Our report exposes the real cost and raises the issue as a wider concern for marketing, customer service and indeed the boardroom.

What can be done?

Browsing on mCommerce sites is an important part of the decision making process for shoppers. Many sites invest heavily in design and features to engage their audience while they browse, but fail to optimise these correctly to ensure the experience is a fast on a smartphone.

Google is focusing on the value of prioritising above-the-fold content – so that the screen the user initially sees is rendered quickly, with any further content loading continuously in the background.

One of the key things is making the site seem fast to users, so for any interactions they make they receive some form of feedback to indicate the input is working. An example of this is touch-states on buttons. These let the user know the button-press they have just done has worked, so they’ll be more willing to wait just a little longer for the results.

Site evaluation

The choice between converting an existing desktop design to a responsive format or to create a dedicated mobile and tablet design is a critical one for any retailer. There are a variety of things to consider and the speed of the application needs to be amongst these. Mobile and tablet specific design is the best approach as it involves the browser loading the elements on display and the page elements can be optimised specifically for the mobile and tablet devices making for faster downloading.

Online retailers need to find the right balance between brand, design, user experience and performance. By running sites through a performance checker at various trading periods retailers can evaluate their current speed and measure this against the industry benchmarks.

Including site speed in their daily and weekly performance metrics is crucial in raising the visibility of this issue, a metric which can now be found in Google Analytics.

So while brands and retailers battle with architecture built to cope with PC demand, the time is now to ensure their offering is designed for mobile and tablet use because one thing is for sure, that is what the consumer wants and expects.

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