Study: Slow Network Speed Equals Bad Brand Perception

If you thought your customers were cutting you a break over the slower speeds you’ve had this holiday season, you’re wrong. “Oh, but they understand this is a busy time,” you might have hoped. Nope.

Surprisingly, while consumers don’t seem to mind waiting online at brick and mortar stores over the holidays (if they did, would there be such lines?!) they mind terribly when they have to wait online while…well…online.

According to a study by Radware, a provider of application delivery and application security solutions for virtual and cloud data centers, network speed deeply impacts consumers at every phase of the transaction process, particularly users of mobile devices. The report, “Mobile Web Stress: The Impact of Network Speed on Emotional Engagement and Brand Perception,” shows that even moderately slower connection speeds result in significant increases in user frustration and decreases in engagement.

The study was conducted using a set of methodologies such as electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking, combined with Implicit Response Tracking, to examine how positive and negative emotions are triggered during a consumers’ shopping process. Using specialized software, researchers slowed down the network speed on mobile devices and compared the experience to a standard wireless connection. The test was designed and conducted by a team of global specialists from Seren (a customer experience and service design platform), Neurosense (an implicit methodologies provider), and NeuroStrata (consultants in blending neuro-marketing applications). Slow-loading sites were tested using the latest consumer neuroscience techniques to elicit response patterns and subconscious emotional engagement.

“Our study proves that brand perception is based on more than a powerful logo or smart marketing strategy,” said Tammy Everts, a Web Performance Evangelist at Radware. “A consumer’s online shopping experience greatly affects [his/her] feelings about a retailer, and because these feelings are happening at a [subconscious], pre-cognitive level, they are beyond the control of site owners. A slow site and poor user interface can be detrimental – potentially negating other, more expensive, branding efforts.”

Sites of four major U.K. brands were tested as part of this study: John Lewis, Tesco, EasyJet and Ryanair. The three-part study includes some other key findings:

· Slow connection speeds are likely to lead to higher levels of frustration and lower levels of emotional engagement.

· The negative impact of slow network speed is not restricted to the immediate customer frustration and loss of business – it deeply impacts the long-term brand perception of the retailer, making potential customers less likely to return.

· The brand damage inflicted by slow sites and poor user experience can translate directly to negative impact on purchase intent across other channels and touch points.

“These findings should be a huge red flag for retail brand managers, especially as mobile is at the point of overtaking desktop in terms of user share,” said Everts. “More than ever, people are browsing and buying on mobile, and slow pages are one of the top issues that mobile users complain about.”

To read the complete version of the Radware study, head on over to their site.