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December 16, 2013

High street retailers pick up pace online for Christmas

Keynote research finds loading time and availability improving for festive shopping period.

By Vinod

In the run up to Christmas, Keynote is assessing the performance of 18 popular UK fashion sites to test online customer experience during the busiest shopping period of the year. Last week (6th – 12th December) Keynote data revealed that across the board, retailers improved both in terms of the time it took for home pages to load, and the availability of the sites.

The average availability of sites this week was particularly impressive, with 10 out of the 18 retailers monitored achieving a 100% success rate. The overall average for all of the sites monitored was 99.89%.

When analysing the loading times of high street retailers’ home pages, Keynote remarked that while there is an improvement on previous weeks, the majority of sites are still lagging behind the recommended two seconds response time.

Only H&M, Zara and Next were available to customers in less than two seconds. This week, the poorest performing site in the index – All Saints – dropped to slower than five seconds with an average load time of 5.11 seconds.

The top performing site, once again this week, was H&M, with a quick load time of just one second, and 100% availability. This is likely to be as a result of the extremely simple home page design that visitors see when they first access the site.

"This week, the results really prove the importance of keeping the number of elements on retailers’ home pages down to a minimum to ensure a speedy and reliable site," said Robert Castley, performance management expert at Keynote.

"While the availability scores have shown dramatic improvements – which is pretty remarkable given the number of consumers continuing to place orders online in time for Christmas – the speed of the high street retailers’ sites still leaves a lot to be desired. Online shoppers are becoming more and more impatient, and rightly so.

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He added: "They’ve come to expect speedy sites like the H&M, Zara and Next offerings, so having to wait more than five seconds for another site to load is just too long. Retailers could learn from H&M’s example; keep the home page simple and then introduce more rich content when consumers are further into the site. This helps to give a great first impression of the retailer online, and is likely to entice visitors in to make their purchases."

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