Feeling Sluggish? You Need an eCommerce Performance Optimization

Is your site feeling a little sluggish? Are you experiencing higher bounce rates than you’re comfortable with? Do you feel like your eCommerce platform isn’t working the way it should?

If so, you’re not alone. These are common problems experienced by businesses that bootstrap eCommerce solutions as they grow. Systems need to be built on one another, and as the network grows, it becomes slow, costly, and hard to maintain.

Sound familiar?

Website Performance Drives Growth

You can’t afford to let poor website performance detract from your customer experience. Page load speeds are an essential part of your UX, but unfortunately, this is one of the first elements to decline as you scale your eCommerce platform.

To make matters worse, many of your newer competitors are already one step ahead. They were able to build their online stores on newer platforms that don’t suffer from the same limitations of piecemeal eCommerce solutions. Modern eCommerce platforms offer far more in the way of functionality compared to those available even just a few years ago.

These efficiencies can make or break your business. Slow loading is one thing, but what happens when your outdated website architecture crashes and brings your site down? When Amazon went down in 2013, the company lost a staggering $66,240 per minute.

That’s an extreme example, but the risks are there for any business. If you want to avoid downtime and keep your eCommerce performance strong, you’ll need to undergo some performance tuning across each aspect of your platform.

Work on Page Load Speed

Consider this one of the perennial rules of eCommerce: Your pages need to load quickly. The research on this is well-established; even a one second delay can decrease your company’s conversion rate by 3.5 percent. Don’t neglect this step! All the work you’ve done on your web design and marketing will be meaningless if your visitors leave before your page loads.

Where to start:

  • Image Optimization: This is especially important if you have a CMS where your staff is uploading images on their own. Make sure images are optimized for their intended use - don't upload original or high resolution images, they're too heavy.
  • Large script files: Are there animations or interactive elements that are no longer used, but still loading on the page? Task your web team with reviewing the site for any files that aren’t being used. Sometimes after an update, the cleanup process gets lost.
  • Minification: Minification means taking a web file (Javascript, CSS, etc.) and removing any excess junk from it to reduce its size - removing comments, spacing and more. The results can be pretty dramatic. It’s not uncommon to see size reductions of more than 50%.

Start Caching

If you haven’t already, implement caching on your website. This is a quick and simple way to give your page load speed a boost and keep more visitors on your page.

Caching involves storing data in temporary locations (such as the browser or the server) to provide quick access when requests are made. For your customer experience, this means that any returning visitors will experience faster page load times, as their connection won’t need to make a fresh query to the server.

This simple change can produce big benefits for your returning visitors: Cached pages load nearly twice as fast as initial connections.

Where to start:

  • Determine if there are any assets that can be moved to a third-party hosting service or content delivery network (CDN) to speed up load time.
  • Numerous CMS systems offer built in caching or a caching plugin - check if yours has one and if so, opt to turn it on. Before you do so, make sure you test all functionality and review the website with caching running.

Clean Out Your Apps

Apps are an essential part of building a functional eCommerce experience, but in terms of performance optimizations, there’s certainly too much of a good thing. We’ve seen websites that have upwards of 30 different applications installed on some page or pages on their site.

Look at every app you have installed and clean house. What does each application bring my site? What specific function does each app serve? Every application you use stretches your bandwidth—and budget—so if you want to speed up your eCommerce experience, you should prune the unessential options and stick to the core functions that drive value for your company.

Where to start:

  • Audit Your Services: What kind of services are you running and can they be optimized? For instance, we’ve seen client sites where many social media marketing widgets are installed, but only a few are in use.
  • Review Load Time of Services: Use your web team to review the size and speed of each of those services. A single culprit could be slowing down the load of your entire site. For any slow running apps, are there other options available? For example, if you’re using social media apps consider looking at different options for displaying things such as Facebook Likes, etc. If it’s been awhile since you installed, there may be more options in the marketplace.
  • Behavior and Performance: As it happens, we can often be our own worst enemy and and allow behavior to cause performance issues. If you are aggressively pushing your platform (maybe you’re close to a hardware / server upgrade) it could be your schedule causing problems. If you’re using the platform to perform order management tasks during peak hours (and your server is already busy), you could be bogging things down. It’s best to wait until traffic is off-peak or slower. Or, consider splitting your customer-facing and order management environment into 2 separate servers so they won’t slow each other down - freeing up your internal scheduling and workflow.  

Consider that you should be using a single eCommerce platform to coordinate all eCommerce data and order management across multiple channels (web, retail POS, mobile and more), you need to ensure a seamless performance experience.

Optimize for Mobile

Did you know that by the end of 2019, it’s predicted that mobile shopping will encompass 67.2 percent of total eCommerce sales?

In other words, your mobile browsing experience is becoming one of the most important aspects of your UX. There’s a good chance that a majority of your visitors are browsing your site on their devices, so if you haven’t optimized your store with quick and responsive design specifically for mobile users, you may be missing out on potential sales.

Keep in mind that any page speed you gain for desktop, is more important on mobile where the impact felt would be greater.

Consider Cloud-Based Monitoring

If you’re struggling to get a handle on your website performance, why not work with a provider who can keep an eye on it for you? Cloud-based monitoring solutions are a great way to get more information about your web performance. These providers offer tools such as load testing, site analysis, and real-time alerts to make you aware of how your site is doing.

If you’re reluctant to invest in a performance monitoring tool for your web team (you shouldn’t be), you can still get a lot of information using the built-in developer tools included in your web browser. Using those built-in (read: Free) tools to get a handle on the scope of any issues on your site, get them fixed, then invest in monitoring services to ensure they won’t happen again.

Don’t Let eCommerce Performance Lag Behind

Improving your eCommerce performance isn’t hard—but it does take work.

Every aspect of your platform, from your website configurations to your eCommerce platform to the channels you’re addressing need to be quick and efficient. These simple steps are the best way to speed up your page and guarantee you don’t lose your customers before they arrive.

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