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Sales at risk as UK’s biggest retailers neglect website load speeds for second year running

The UK’s top retailers are risking sales by failing to improve their website load speeds over the past 12 months, according to a new index report.

The research, carried out by leading ecommerce and digital agency Visualsoft, forms part of the company’s second annual e-retail performance report.

The study tested and analysed the UK’s top 250 eCommerce sites and found that 62% rated as ‘poor’ – taking longer than nine seconds to load on 3G – in comparison to 54% of sites that rated poor in 2017.

This is despite the growing importance of mobile in driving revenues, with predictions that 2019 could be the biggest ever for traffic and sales made via mobile.

A further 16% of retailers’ sites took 15 seconds or longer to load. This figure has worsened by 4% vs. the same time last year. Google estimates that these e-retailers will be losing a minimum of 32% of all potential visitors through load time alone.

Only 1% of the retailers tested were marked ‘excellent’ – taking under four seconds to load and expected to experience low levels of potential visitor loss. This is also a worse performance than 2017, when 2% of retailers rated as excellent.

Dean Benson, Visualsoft’s CEO, commented:

“Page load speed is one of the biggest contributors to customer frustration, basket abandonment and lost sales, with almost 47% of customers expecting a site to load in less than two seconds. However, many companies are still unwittingly sacrificing load speeds as they grow their online stores.

“The rapid growth of eCommerce may lure some brands into a false sense of security, but nobody is immune to the troubles of the retail sector. Optimising website performance is of business-critical importance.

“However, these figures underline a general picture of complacency within the biggest names in the sector. This provides a huge opportunity for smaller, hungrier businesses in the market to challenge the big brands – many of whom are clearly unable (or unwilling) to focus on getting the basics right – and are losing out on sales as a result.

“Decreased page speeds are often the result of increased graphics and features that simply haven’t been optimised for mobile, leading to poor user experiences for the millions of customers that prefer to shop via their smartphones. The usual culprits are oversized images and/or videos on mobile homepages, unnecessary animations, overzealous tracking codes, prematurely-loading content, and superfluous image carousels.

“In addition to identifying and eliminating these common errors, we always recommend that every new element of a store is designed ‘mobile up’, as pages that perform poorly on smartphones are proven to drive away customers, and since Google’s ‘Speed Update’, they can decrease organic traffic to your store, too.”

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