How Loading Speeds Impact eCommerce Conversion Rates

[Editor's note: This week’s post comes from Robert Rand, Director of Partnerships & Alliances at our partner JetRails. JetRails provides fully-managed hosting solutions for rapidly growing and well-established brands.] 

Consumer expectations of website features and performance continue to evolve. This evolution is continuing in tandem with both changes in the devices that shoppers use most often to surf the web, and the activities that they conduct online. It’s also happening as shoppers are choosing to buy more online as opposed to in stores.

In 2016, Google published that “53% of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.” While they weren’t the first to suggest that loading speeds were crucial to conversion rates, their authority certainly gave much-needed weight to industry experts that were trying to disseminate this valuable information. After many years, it felt like website owners were finally starting to understand the impacts.

Then in 2017, new research from Google determined that “as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%.” That same research found that a page loading speed going from 1 second up to 5 seconds increased bounce rates by 90%. 

Loading speeds also impact the amount of traffic that you receive. For instance,  one of Google's major ranking factors is page speed. Your site's page speed impacts various aspects of your web presence. One key factor would be your Google Ads; the higher your load time, the lower your Landing Page Score will be. Now, putting this together means lower speeds not only increase customer bounce rate, but it also lowers your ability to attract new business to your site in the first place.

So what are website owners doing to improve their page speeds? The general consensus is not enough. While many studies show that consumers care about loading speeds, often, this gets caught somewhere between marketing and web development, with neither side leading the charge toward positive change. 

A 2019 report from Unbounce highlights, “81% of marketers know speed influences their conversions, but they’re not making it a priority.” To compare it to an everyday issue, many of us know to live healthier lives we need to get enough sleep, eat healthier, and exercise more; however, we struggle with the distraction of inaction. To improve your conversion health, consider the following:

  • Consider running speed tests from Google, GTMetrix, or WebPageTest, or run a more specific eCommerce speed test.
  • Conduct a review of your hosting environment. A good host can help with a CDN like Cloudflare, caching technology like Varnish, modern hardware, and various other optimizations, such as helping you to use up-to-date versions of software like PHP and Linux.
  • Conduct a review of your website site itself. You may consider anything from using new Progressive Web App (PWA) technology for your frontend, to the more common optimizing images, reducing redirects, minifying JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, and so on.

The process of optimizing your individual site will, of course, differ. Each website is unique, and depending on your extensions, theme, custom coding, rich media, and other components, you’ll need a unique action plan to address the issues that are having the biggest impact on your webpage loading speeds. In a best-case scenario, you’ll have a web development team and a website hosting company that will work together to audit your site and present a joint action plan for generating the desired results.

While much of this will fall on your developers and host, it’s equally important that anyone adding products and content to your site, including banners and images, be trained on best-practices for keeping that content optimized. For instance, you can run images through a free tool like squoosh.app before adding them to your site, to compress them. It takes everyone doing their part to not only improve your loading speeds but to keep them at their best.

Lastly, site loading speeds are a moving target. As you update your website software, extensions, and content, you’ll want to monitor for changes in speeds. Similarly, you’ll want to take advantage of new updates that are available for your hosting environment, which will keep your site more secure and will often include speed enhancements. With loading speeds, as with security, it’s a good idea to monitor your standings and to audit for areas that could use improvement on an ongoing basis. Knowing how impactful speeds can be on your eCommerce website’s bottom line, you’ll likely find that your proactive approach will be well worth the effort.

About the author

Robert has over a decade of experience in helping merchants benefit from sound E-commerce and Digital Marketing strategies. He’s highly experienced at harnessing the power of E-commerce technologies and solutions to help businesses of all types and sizes grow and succeed and has earned numerous distinctions and accolades from his work with merchants and partner organizations. Robert is the head of partnerships for JetRails, a fully-managed white-glove eCommerce hosting service. 

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