Speed sells

This coming week (first week of February), Unibet launches its revamped website based on the Facelift project I lead. As a part of this effort, we have worked extremely hard in order to lower page loading times. We have invested a substantial amount of time and money focusing on improving performance. Is this really justified?

A 2006 study by Jupiter Research found that the consequences for an online retailer whose site underperforms include diminished goodwill, negative brand perception, and, most important, significant loss in overall sales. Online shopper loyalty is contingent upon quick page loading, especially for high-spending shoppers and those with greater tenure.

The report ranked poor site performance second only to high prices and shipping costs as the main dissatisfaction among online shoppers. Additional findings in the report show that more than one-third of shoppers with a poor experience abandoned the site entirely, while 75 percent were likely not to shop on that site again. These results demonstrate that a poorly performing website can be damaging to a company’s reputation; according to the survey, nearly 30 percent of dissatisfied customers will either develop a negative perception of the company or tell their friends and family about the experience.

+500 ms page load time lead to a -20% drop in traffic at Google

Marissa Mayer ran an experiment where Google increased the number of search results from ten to thirty per page. Traffic and revenue from Google searchers in the experimental group dropped by 20%.

After a bit of looking, they found an uncontrolled variable. The page with 10 results took 400ms to generate. The page with 30 results took 900ms. Half a second delay caused a 20% drop in traffic. Half a second delay killed user satisfaction.

“It was almost proportional. If you make a product faster, you get that back in terms of increased usage”
-Marissa Mayer,VP Search Product and User Experience at Google

The same effect happened with Google Maps. When the company trimmed the 120KB page size down by about 30 percent, the company started getting about 30 percent more map requests.

+100 ms page load time lead to a -1% sales at Amazon

Amazon also performed some A/B testing and found that page load times directly impacted the revenue:

“In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.”
-Greg Linden, Amazon.com

There are a number of tools and best-practices available to improve web-site performance. I particularly like the work of Steve Souders. Steve was the Chief Performance Yahoo! (at Yahoo! obviously) and is now at Google doing web performance and open source initiatives.

When at Yahoo, Steve published a benchmark and tool, called YSlow which is a good indicator of how well the front-end web technology (HTML, javascript and images etc) of your site is implemented. Front-end makes up for almost 90% of the page load times at more e-commerce sites.

At Unibet, our old HTML had a YSlow score of 56/100 in average. This is about average in the e-gaming industry. However, the Facelifted version just out is 96/100. As comparison, eBay start page is 97/100, Yahoo! start-page is 95/100. This should result in reduced wait and based on the research above this will help drive revenue and customer satisfaction.

We have worked extremely hard in order to lower page loading times. We have invested a substantial amount of time and money in doing so. Is this really justified? YES! I am confident that our new site will contribute to increased sales and increased customer lifetime value.

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