Consumers Won’t Abide Slow Etailers

Attention etailers: short attention spans are not just for MTV viewers any more. If your site takes too long to load, customers will abandon you, and “too long” is now defined as four seconds.

That’s the results of a survey performed by JupiterKagan and sponsored by Akamai Technologies . The survey spoke to 1,058 online shoppers and found minimal patience for slow loads.

The report found that an online retailer whose site underperforms will lose that customer, most likely forever. Between 28 to 33 percent of customers would give up on a site that took more than four seconds to load.

The report found 64 percent were less likely to visit the site again, 62 percent said they were less likely to buy from the site, and 48 percent said they would purchase from another retailer.

It also found that half of “mature” online shoppers – those with either two or more years tenure shopping online or that spend more than $1,500 annually – identify page loading time as one of their top priorities for online sites.

Sixty-five percent said they would be likely to return to a site that is easy to navigate, particularly during the registration, log-in and checkout processes.

Several years ago, research showed customers would lose patience with a site that took more than eight seconds to load, according to Pedro Santos, senior product marketing manager for Akamai.

So why the growing impatience? Santos said it’s due to broadband. “If you look at what’s happened in the last few years, broadband adoption has heavily increased in the last several years. With broadband changing things, people are less likely to sit and wait for a Web page to load,” he said.

Peter Sargent, research director for JupiterKagen who conducted the survey, echoed this sentiment. JupiterKagan predicts 78 percent of American homes will have broadband by 2010 and electronic retailers better be ready for them.

“Sure, customers may try a site, especially if it’s a well-known brand. But any consistent underperformance is frustrating, because we’ve set certain expectations for how the Web will perform, especially if you have a broadband connection,” he said.

Sargent argued that a good percentage of electronic retailers out there are in the four second range. For those who want to be in that critical range, effective rendering is one of the most important factors to consider because with graphics, HTML and scripting, it is easy to load down a site’s performance. Instead, the goal the overriding goal should be to always have a fast and smooth page loading experience.

“If the site underperforms, the consumer is more than likely to blame the Web site and the retailer themselves. There are other aspects that contribute to it, but the bottom line is consumers will blame that site for that underperformance,” he said.

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