Performance Optimisation

Using performance to deliver timely results

Mark Lyne
  • 28 Jul 2016
  • 10 min read

Isn’t it dull having to wait for anything these days. In everything we do we are having to address efficiencies. It has become a cultural issue to need information served at lightning speed, and with 80% of internet users owning and searching using a smartphone, you can be affecting their brand experience and, worse, costing them money with data charges.

Person purchasing something online

How often is it that you are faced with a web page that doesn’t serve the information you request, at the speed you want it?

What delighted users a few years ago is now an expected baseline, the absence of which will frustrate. Philip Tellis
The 3.5s dash for user attention and other things we found in RUM

Never has this been truer than when applied to online retail. The difference between waiting for a page to load, or seeing an instant result, plays a huge part in shaping conversion results and ultimately a shops bottom line.

When it comes to performance providing the difference between success and failure in online retail the statistics are well publicised:[1]

  • 40% of consumers expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds.
  • 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with a website performance are less likely to return to buy from the same site.
  • A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversion.

While it’s great to have these statistics to support any sentiment, these stats are top line averages used for benchmarking. We want to share a case study that outlines how much of an impact addressing performance on one of our client's sites has had.

The challenge

As with many businesses, our client’s revenue goes through seasonal peaks and troughs and, with a particularly large peak fast approaching, it was integral that the site could serve pages in a timely fashion.

The research

We actively collect data to inform our understanding of user behaviour throughout all of our clients' sites and this historical data allowed us to identify key sections of the website that were underperforming.

Due to the complexity of the site, most issues were around Time to First Byte (TTFB), or the time it takes for the server to construct the page and deliver it back to the user’s device.

Issue 1: Slow basket page

The basket page was the biggest outlier when it came to response time. As the entrance to the checkout process with one of the highest page values on the site, it has the potential to have a significant impact on conversions.

Our detailed server-side measurements allowed us to identify problem processes which were having the biggest impact on the slow TTFB. Marginally improving each one could make a big difference.

Issue 2: Trend-based search terms lead to high traffic

The search page receives the highest level of traffic across the site. With users interacting with search refinement options, a slow loading page will negatively impact their desire to continue until they find the correct product.

The type of search terms used on our site are very trend based and at high volumes for short periods of time. Increasing the granularity of the caching process on this page by dynamically storing the associated data for high volume search terms would allow us to greatly improve the performance of the search results.

The results

We have seen fundamental differences to user behaviour. Our data shows that our recommendations were in line with the user’s expectations of the site. By making the site more efficient we paved the way for the new traffic to move through the buying process.

  1. 38% drop in users exiting the basket page between the two periods - The standout figure being the performance of the basket showing a marked improvement for users, with exit rates dropping by 38% and users completing purchase goals increasing by 35%.
  2. 5% increase in time spent on the site, and 17% increase in pages viewed once a user has performed a search - Helping to cut the time users had to wait for key searches has improved overall site engagement and, more specifically, click through rates into the product pages from the search results.
  3. The average load speed of the pages was improved by 1.23sec - We hit our main objective for the site and cut the average load speed of the pages, which is reflected in the results making the site more effective overall.

The conclusion

Market knowledge is essential

It was possible to avoid a significant loss of revenue potential for our client because we work so closely with them and have worked with them to gain an acute understanding of their market. We don’t stop working once an initial site build project has been completed.

Measure everything

Providing users with a rich and efficient experience helps build trust and present a cohesive brand experience.

It was only possible to make this level of impact because of our detailed measurement setup. This spans right from the server behind the scenes to the user interacting with the page and allows for holistic assessments to be made in order to have the greatest impact. Providing users with a rich and efficient experience helps build trust and present a cohesive brand experience.

Performance is a feature

It’s easy to overlook page load times in an online strategy. Performance is a feature that you should build into your process. Why? because you are meeting users’ needs by providing them an effective solution, which has a big influence on your bottom line.

Ridgeway’s in-house Performance team of experts help to drive traffic, create great customer experiences, devise marketing strategies, and analyse website performance to make actionable recommendations for the optimisation of your digital solutions.

[1]Kissmetrics, How loading time affects your bottom line