Whatever type of eCommerce operation you’re running, there’s one thing that sits at the heart of it – your website.
In simplistic terms, it’s your shop window, the public interface between you and your customers. Under the bonnet, however, it’s a complex setup, with all the product databases, payment processing, security and fulfilment systems that are essential to keeping everything running smoothly.
That complexity can come at a price: page speed. Essentially, the more things you have running on a site, and the more data that you expect your customers to download, the slower will be your website. Add in poor hosting and you could have a website that’s simply too frustrating to visit.
To use the shop window analogy, having a slow site is like having a maze in front of your shop, and when customers reach the window, it’s dirty and cracked. In short, you’ll be losing customers to the clean, easy-access store down the road.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to speed up an underperforming website. Some are technical, such as optimising plugins, using caching, activating lazy loading and reducing choke points in hosting. Others can be carried out by the average user running their own site, such as optimising images or keeping redirects to a minimum.
Ultimately, keeping load times as short as possible is a priority. Some SEO experts say visitors will start dropping off as soon as pages start to take longer than just 3 seconds to load, so if you value a high volume of engaged visitors, that should be your minimum goal – and preferably faster if possible.
What does poor page speed and usability mean for your eCommerce store?
There are some provable, measurable ways in which slow page loading can affect your website’s performance, and therefore your sales or leads. Here are some of the most pressing.
1. High bounce rates
In technical terms, a “bounce” is when a visitor comes to a single page on your website then leaves without following any internal links or engaging with the products. If your page has a high bounce rate, it can mean that people are finding your website (which is good) but not seeing anything of interest once they’re there. That could be because of the content, but it could also be because they simply got fed up waiting for something to happen as your page is loading so slowly. Sharpen up your page speed and you should see bounces greatly reduce.
2. Google penalties
Did you know that Google has dozens of factors by which it determines the quality of every web page? Those factors give each page a score that determines how close to the coveted #1 spot it sits for a given search term.
The content and code play a big part, but an important factor is page speed. If Google’s bot visits your site and it’s slow-loading, it marks it down, meaning you rank lower, and fewer people will find you through its search engine. That can only mean one thing: fewer visitors and fewer sales than would otherwise be the case.
3. Poor mobile experience
A few years ago, the internet reached a milestone when analysts discovered that more searches were being carried out on mobile devices than desktop and laptop computers. Since searches lead to visits and visits lead to sales, it’s essential that your site is legible, navigable and fully functional to smartphone users.
The easiest way to do this is to have a responsive site, which is one that changes its layout depending on the device being used. You can also have separate sites for mobile and desktop. Since many mobile users will be using data, perhaps with just 1 bar of connectivity, you need small, efficient and fast sites that load quickly.
4. No time to get your message across
We’ve all searched for products online, so we’re familiar with the process of looking around for the best deals. But if we visit a site and after a few seconds we’re still looking at a blank screen, we’ll tend to hit the back button or close the tab rather than wait. It doesn’t matter if your deals are much better than your competition – if your customers don’t see the deals in the first place, they’re never going to take the bait.
Keeping pages small, messages prominent and important information loading first will all help you to tell potential customers why you’re the one they should spend their money with.
5. Brand connotations
Do you want to look like a trustworthy, efficient operation that puts customer satisfaction at the heart of every decision? Or do you want to look like a company that takes customers for granted and carries on at your own sweet pace?
Hopefully you’ll fall into the first category, but no matter how fantastic your website looks, and how great your offering is, you’re not going to retain your reputation as a customer champion if your website loads like it’s 1996. Keep it sleek, keep it fast and your brand retains its value.
How to take notice and improve your page speed for users
Core Web Vitals are the elements of your website’s performance that directly affect the visitor. They are usually divided into three groups: page loading, interactivity and visual stability. If you visit any website and just one of these elements is lacking, it’s easy to see how the user experience is impacted to the detriment of the user and, by extension, the site owner.
When you think about loading, there’s actually an inevitable delay for a second or two while the user’s web browser goes through the process of locating the web page from its URL and starts to download the non-displayed code. All web users are accustomed to that delay, and there’s very little we can do to improve it, but it does count towards the total wait, which is why ensuring the visible and interactive parts are as quick to load as possible.
If you aim for a mobile first approach, i.e. ensuring your page displays properly and is functional and interactive on a mobile device with a fair to middling connection speed, you can’t go wrong with all other devices.
There are two tools at your disposal here: testing and analytics. First, you should be testing your page not only on your superfast fibre broadband-connected desktop PC, but also on that phone that’s a few generations old, with Wi-Fi switched off, in a building with concrete walls. If it’s fast to completely load, you’re good to go. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights to get usable information.
Second, you should be using analytics to keep a close eye on the wider performance of your site. Your own testing is useful, but the data you gather from tens, hundreds, thousands of users is invaluable. You’ll get to see habits and trends that the average user obeys – and fix your site where you see problems.
Your page speed has been optimised – what’s the next step?
Once you’re satisfied that your page speed is about as good as you can possibly get it, you should hopefully start seeing improvements in your Google ranking, visitor count and sales, because one thing almost inevitably follows the other.
So now you’re making more sales, you’re going to need to make sure your fulfilment operation is firing on all cylinders. We like to think Zendbox is to fulfilment optimisation what your page speed is to sales optimisation. In other words, if customers who buy from your website get a fast, flawless delivery, you’ll benefit from repeat custom, fewer returns and more five-star reviews, which all add up to more sales in the future.
As your third-party logistics partner, you can do away with storage and visits to the post office to get your customers’ orders to their front doors. You simply keep our warehouses stocked with your products, whether you’re making them yourself or retailing them from another supplier, and once the order is complete, the wheels of delivery are put in motion.
Integrate our solution into your site, be it Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce or any of the major eCommerce platforms, and it all happens automatically, 24/7, so you know your customers are getting seamless service from the moment they tap the buy button.
And with our powerful AI and reporting via Zendportal, you can keep an eye on all your stock levels, location and fulfilment status for every single item that’s in our care, at any moment.
Only when your shipping operation is optimised for speed can you say your eCommerce website is optimised. At Zendbox, we take care of the fulfillment while you concentrate on making your site thrive. Together, we make a great team.