Despite the bountiful investments in e-commerce from brands and retailers across the consumer goods market, a new study from Yottaa and Retail Systems Research (RSR) finds that web performance is consistently below recommended standards. Website speed, in particular, was a problem, with 78% of surveyed retailers failing to meet the standards set by the e-commerce optimization platform.

The shift to online selling has put pressure on merchants to upgrade their digital offering and improve the consumer experience. But investments in these areas don’t always address the most important areas, with some companies getting distracted by glossy aesthetics or a gamified shopping journey — and neglecting core components of the e-commerce process.

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The report looked at several key categories, with companies able to score a total of 54 points. Sample criteria included the time taken to load a homepage on mobile; the difference between fastest and slowest load times; site design; creative checkout options; and whether the mobile experience matched that of desktop.

Some brands set an example: Ralph Lauren performed best, with a total score of 42.5 out of 54, while Foot Locker ranked joint third with 37.5 points. There was also a 9% improvement in average performance score, compared to the results of the 2019 survey. However, Yottaa concluded that the 2020 average of 57% was still too low to keep up with the demands of the modern consumer.

“With consumers shopping primarily online and retailers desperate to make up lost revenue from recent brick-and-mortar store closings, digital channels are the last frontier of survival for retail brands,” said Steve Rowen, managing partner at Retail Systems Research (RSR). “Based on the findings from our new report on eCommerce site performance, retailers that cannot rely on their online offerings’ ability to serve as their primary face to the consumers now face the very serious chance of extinction.”

Yottaa also surveyed 1,100 U.S. consumers to ascertain what was most important to them about the online shopping experience. The stakes proved very high: The report found that 90% of shoppers said they would abandon a site if it was too slow, while 21% would never return to that retailer. Over half would leave and purchase from a direct competitor, while 41% would turn to Amazon as an alternative.

When the survey’s findings are examined in this context, the results are not encouraging. Mobile sales are the most rapidly growing segment of e-commerce yet Yottaa reported that the average page load time on mobile was 7.02 seconds. While this is 2.25 seconds faster than 2019’s average, it is still a whole 4 seconds slower than most consumers will tolerate — after 3 seconds, shoppers are likely to exit a retailer’s page.

Adidas, the leader of this category a few years ago, scored less than 50%, and Neiman Marcus — known for its customer service — also underperformed. The report described this as “a clear indicator that too many strong brands are continuing to sacrifice speed at the altar of high-quality functionality and content. The best brands will absolutely strive for both.”

There were some positive takeaways. The biggest improvement came in the category of “overall shopper experience,” with participants receiving an average score of 12.3 out of 15. Calvin Klein scored a perfect 15 — a first for the survey. And while most brands used similar design styles, Under Armour and Chico were lauded for innovative features such as consumer videos and other user-generated content.

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