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Simple tweaks that 20% of the top retail sites are using to smoke the competition

Magento speed testing shows trends in top 50

Almost 50% of the visitors to the top 10 retailers are now mobile-only.  There is no such thing as ‘desktop experience’ for these users, and site performance is critical for mobile shopping – 73% of mobile users say sites load too slowly.  This applies to everyone, not just the top 10: mobile accounts for 30% of all US e-commerce revenue.  Page load time is now a competitive metric – not just a technical one.

Yes, speed is a contest

We tested 50 of the top fashion e-commerce sites for performance in 2015, and we repeated the test this year. We checked time to first byte (TTFB), fully loaded time, and speed index for each site. A summary of the data set is below.

A table showing the performance of some of the top 5 ecommerce sites in 2015 and 2016.
Click to view full table

Some interesting findings from our analysis:

  • Fully loaded time increased by 3.14 seconds and speed index increased by 1027 on average.
  • 8% of the original 50 sites tested are offline today – presumably out of business.
  • Only one site (2%) moved away from Magento for a new CMS.
  • 18% added a CDN, but on average their load times went up by 2.19 seconds.
  • Of the the top 10 fastest sites today, 40% of them were in the under-performing group last year, illustrating how competitive the space is.
  • 70% of the fastest sites are not using Magento Enterprise – demonstrating that Community Edition sites can compete effectively with EE.

We hope you don’t mind if we point out that in both 2015 and 2016, the absolute fastest site tested also happens to be a Magento CE site we host on the JetRails platform.

Competition is heating up among the top 50. 20% went from being slower than the median Speed Index in 2015  to faster. Seven went from lagging to leading in TTFB.  The sites that moved up were 29% faster than average in speed index and 51% faster in TTFB. This paints a clear picture of  how performance is increasingly a way to compete.

How to use page speed to compete

A site that loads faster is nice, but does it impact the business?  Yes. Faster load times drive revenue, period. Industry statistics paint a very clear picture:

The same factors that limit desktop performance are even more harmful on mobile, due to higher latency and connections with unreliable and fluctuating speed.  Google is also all-in on a mobile first world, so a focus on performance and mobile experience seems likely to pay SEO dividends for the foreseeable future.

It’s high time to capitalize on the performance competition opportunity. There are two major ways to do this – tweak the site itself for speed, and put it into the right server environment.

The simple tweaks you can use to be faster right away:

These code and configuration changes can make a huge difference, but having the site on the right hardware is not optional.  JetRails combines an efficient configuration with serious hardware, which lets our customers run smoothly even at peak times.

We’re pleased to see so many sites making the effort and boosting performance from last year, but there’s still plenty of slack in this space.  20% of sites are pulling ahead, but average results in the top 50 for TTFB and Speed Index are considerably slower than industry benchmarks.  This is a wide-open door for retailers willing to prioritize performance in the next 12 months.  Call us if you’d like to discuss how your site can climb the ranks.

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