How to Ensure You’re Not Losing 7% (or More) of Conversions on your Site

By Paul Cook, Special to The eTail Blog

Like most online retailers, you’ve worked hard to create an eye-catching storefront, using the latest web technologies and features to make shopping more productive and fun. Coupled with the number of marketing campaigns you’re running – each of which comes with a “tag” that gets placed on your site so you can track visitors’ activities, measure campaign performance, and glean valuable data – your website performance can be considerably slowed.

With a decreasing amount of patience among today’s shoppers, slow webpage loads can have disastrous results. Even a one-second delay in page load speed can result in increased site abandonment and a seven percent loss in conversions, according to research from the Aberdeen Group.

Below are some ways to identify where and how performance issues may be impacting the online shopping experience – along with advice on how to accelerate page load speed using some quick fixes.

Shopper location

Are your customers just around the corner, or scattered across the country or the globe? Use testing services that will show site performance for various access nodes and paths, so you can tell if your site performs well for local traffic but is slower for traffic coming from long distances. You can also determine if you need to have platform servers in other locations to accommodate remote visitors.

Peak and off-peak traffic times

If you can pinpoint certain times of day or even specific dates when traffic volumes spike, you can make temporary adjustments to improve performance just during those times.

Different types of web pages

Different features and functionalities will load on different pages of your site. Evaluate different pages separately, and take a good look at any applications that might be slowing down particular pages – for instance, user reviews on product pages, or too many images on search results pages.

Third-party tags

You can figure out if these tags are slowing down page loads by simply switching them off. You probably don’t want to do this permanently since you’ll lose valuable tracking data, but at least it will tell you if tags are contributing to site latency. Catchpoint is one of the suppliers that can evaluate the amount of time tags take to load, and you can use CharlesProxy to simulate a slow-loading tag, giving you an idea of the potential drag on your site’s performance.
Once you have an idea of where site performance may be faltering, you can take steps to bring speed back to acceptable levels. You don’t necessarily need to strip the site down to the bare bones – here are some less-drastic options.

Streamline page code

Optimizing page code, or shrinking the JavaScript, involves merging separate sets of instructions that tell the page what to do. Downloading lots of small scripts takes longer than downloading one large script. Simply open the JavaScript files and copy and paste them all into one file. If this sounds intimidating, you can use online resources such as Smarty to guide you through the process of merging files dynamically.

Address site functionality

Site performance will vary from page to page, depending on what applications and functionalities you have – such as site search and shopping carts. This is especially true if you rely on hosted solutions. If your site search pages load slowly and you use a hosted provider, ask them about options for improving speed, or consider switching to a different provider.

Optimize third-party tags

There are tags for display ads, paid search, SEO, social media, retargeting, email marketing, affiliates, site analytics, and more. Instead of turning off all the tags, it’s better to optimize them through use of more sophisticated tag management systems. For example, you can configure your tag management system to perform parallel tag loading, which effectively loads all tags in parallel rather than in sequential order where slower loading tags can hold up the rest, reducing the total time necessary for the page to complete.

Load pages from the top

Your pages should load items above the fold first. This allows shoppers to start shopping right away, instead of waiting for items to load.

By taking a comprehensive view of site performance and how it’s measured, you can find areas for improvement without having to take drastic measures that compromise usability and campaign tracking. Keeping a close eye on performance will help you deliver the streamlined experience your customers expect, and will strengthen your brand reputation, reduce site abandonment, and drive more purchases.

Paul Cook is the CEO of TagMan, a leader in tag management enabling agencies and advertisers to manage online marketing tags/pixels, and the data they provide.