Study of Mobile Web Retailers Rates Performance

The difference of a few seconds in performance usually only matters to Olympic swimmers and sprinters, but retailers hoping to capitalize on the holiday shopping blitz should be included in that group, according to recent research.

Gomez, the Web performance unit of Compuware, just issued a benchmark study comparing and ranking the mobile Web site performance of the nation’s top retailers, and found that Amazon’s mobile site loaded the fastest at 2.8 seconds.

The average response time for the mobile retail sites tested clocked in at 4.7 seconds — 50 percent slower than the average response times of the retailers’ traditional e-commerce sites, according to Gomez, which also found that mobile Web page load times ranged from 2.8 to 6.9 seconds.

The study was conducted from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, with Gomez evaluating the mobile Web performance of the home pages of 14 top retailers, based on testing done from different locations and using the top four carriers. The response times and page availability was then measured when accessed by the Motorola Razr V3.

Mobile home page availability, or uptime, averaged 98.74 percent, compared to 99.76 percent average availability for traditional retail Web sites, according to the new benchmark report.

While it may seem that the difference of a few seconds isn’t a huge deal, given the bandwidth of wireless networks, online shoppers have high expectations for mobile Web sites.

A recent Gomez survey of 1,000 mobile Web users found that the majority expect Web sites to load as quickly — or faster — on their mobile phone as they do on their computers.

Furthermore, two out of three people have encountered problems accessing mobile Web sites, with slow load times cited as the chief complaint. Eighty-five percent said they are only willing to retry a mobile Web site two times or less if it does not work initially, and 40 percent said they’d likely visit a competitor’s mobile Web site instead, according to Gomez data.

E-tailers need all the help they can get, as recent reports indicate that online vendors may see another disappointing fourth quarter e-commerce season as consumers continue to suffer from the sour economy.

“This holiday season will be the first true test of the performance of retailers’ mobile sites,” Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies for Gomez, said in a statement. “And while we know that online shoppers have low tolerance for long wait times for traditional online shopping Web pages, it will be interesting to see whether they will be willing to sacrifice speed for the convenience of mobile browsing and shopping.

“The wide disparity found in the new Gomez mobile benchmark highlights that many retailers have more work to do to improve their mobile Web performance or risk losing a potential slice of the holiday action.”

In response time, QVC was second after Amazon with a response time of 2.9 seconds, followed by Newegg at 3.33, Overstock at 3.35, BestBuy at 3.4, Walmart at 3.8, Victoria’s Secret at 4.9, at 5.2, Nordstrom at 5.4, Musician’s Friend at 5.7, 1800Flowers at 5.8, Sears at 6, at 6.2 and Target at 6.9.

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