Business development 15 August 2018

Why slow websites are silent killers for micro businesses

Ecommerce mistakes
Don’t let a slow loading website be your downfall

Writing for Business Advice, Antony Edwards, CTO at user experience firm Eggplant, explains why it’s vital for company owners to undertake regular health checks on their website – or risk losing business to a competitor.

On a daily basis, companies update, review and change their websites. But how often are they given a real deep clean? How long has it been since every page, video, banner and link on a site was critiqued to determine whether it is useful or not?

On the surface, this may seem an unnecessary length to go to. Not least because most businesses believe their sites work fine and only stop to take notice when there’s a big issue, like a crash.

Here’s a common stat to provide context: according to Kissmetrics, 47% of visitors expect a website to load in less than two seconds, and 40% of visitors will leave a website if the loading process takes more than three (seconds). Everybody has, at some point, left a site or search engine through lack of patience.

While that is startling, though perhaps not surprising, consider this: last month we undertook a global study of 3,200 adults in the UK and USA looking at consumer attitudes surrounding website speed and performance. We found that a business with a slow or underperforming website is likely to lose 73% of its customers to a competitor. That’s almost three quarters of customers. No business, anywhere in the world, can afford to lose that volume of revenue.

Down is not out

The message to business is clear – if any part of your website is slow, you are in trouble. In fact, our research showed that over 80% of consumers are more frustrated by consistently slow websites than those that are temporarily down.

Clearly, consumers are happy to forgive the odd transgression if a site does not work. For example, Glastonbury remains one of the world’s most popular music festivals and you can practically set your watch by when the website will crash. When it comes to web performance, down is certainly not out.

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In fact, 70% of UK adults rated website speed as important when it comes to online activity. Of this, a third said website speed was very important, while only 17% said speed was not important at all.

When it comes to UK consumers, site speed is so important that almost three in five feel much more negative to a brand if its site is consistently slow to load. This is in contrast to less than a quarter who feel the same way if a site is down or not working. What does this tell us? Speed is good.

The silent killer

When it comes to business performance, slow websites are a silent killer. This is especially true in an age of instant gratification — the two-second attention span and quick social media retaliation at anything less than full performance.

Today, speed, connectivity, and an outstanding user experience are critical to ongoing business success, and while customers will forgive and forget the odd bug, crash, or period of site maintenance, they will not tolerate a site that doesn’t move at the speed they’ve become accustomed to.

To stay competitive and retain customers, online retailers must focus on website speed alongside website availability. With preparation for the holiday shopping season well under way, our research should serve as a wake-up call for businesses to analyse and optimise every element of online presence to make sure websites and apps are running as efficiently as possible.

Acquiring and cultivating customers has never been as important to business as it is today. In a world of borderless commerce, competition is fierce with an increasing amount of products commoditised on price.

At the same time, consumer choice is at an all-time high, with patience arguably at an all-time low. Customers expect exactly what they want – quickly –  and delivered with all the bells and whistles on. Over time, anything less than this erodes trust, loyalty and spend.

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