Britain’s top retail sites end the year bigger and slower than ever - but there is hope
NCC Group’s Web Performance division has revealed website speed figures for the UK’s top 50 retailers in Q4 of 2016. This includes the crucial peak period around Black Friday, when delivering a fast online experience was particularly important to maximise sales.
As with every quarter since 2013, the figures showed another slowdown, with overall load times averaging 16.06 seconds – nearly two seconds (14 per cent) slower than Q4 of 2015. This is partly due to an increase in page size, which was 2.29MB in Q4 of 2016 - up from 2.19MB during the same period in 2015.
However, there were some positives to draw from the latest statistics. One is that the rate of the slowdown appears to be falling.
The top retail sites slowed by an average of 23 per cent over the course of 2015, just as page size increased by 24 per cent. But in 2016 load time and page size both increased by just over 10 per cent. These changes also highlight the close correlation between page size and page speed, and hint at where retailers should focus their efforts when trying to make their websites faster.
The other aspect of retail web performance that didn’t fare as poorly was render start time - the time it takes a web page to start displaying content to visitors. As such, it can be a better indication of the experience that the page delivers. Although render start times for UK retail sites are still poor, averaging 3.36 seconds in Q4, they have remained relatively consistent over the course of the year.
According to Ben Daniel, head of professional services at NCC Group’s Web Performance division, “When it comes to a correlation between site speed and KPIs such as conversion and bounce rate, the evidence continues to stack up: faster web pages deliver a better user experience and more revenue for online retailers.
“What’s more, retailers no longer have to look to third-party case studies for that evidence. Increasingly, they’re able to use sophisticated real user monitoring solutions to prove that link for themselves.
“While many top retail websites are continuing to slow down, we’re encouraged by signs that more and more retailers are beginning to understand the importance of a high-performing website to the business.”
Published date:  10 February 2017