eCommerce Site Speed Slow During Holidays

eCommerce sites are slower this year than last.

We’ve noted the trend of slower eCommerce sites before, and apparently the issue persists. According to Catchpoint Systems, a company that monitors performance around the web, the 50 leading eCommerce websites have become slower since the holiday season last year. We’re going to take a look at how and why that is.

The hard data

To begin, let’s just lay out the primary findings:

Desktop pages were nearly 20% slower than last year (in the group of 50 sites, the median page load speed was 3.991 seconds).
Mobile pages were close to 60% slower (median page load speed of 2.954 seconds).

Why this is happening

While you might think that it’s simply a massive influx of visitors due to Black Friday, the problem of slow eCommerce sites has actually been attributed mostly to the pages themselves. Pages are ballooning in size, which naturally leads to longer load times. To get closer to the root of the issue, though, we need to ask why pages continue to grow and seemingly outpace the average user’s download speeds.

Our initial thought was that it had to do primarily with the speed of the internet (we thought it might have begun to plateau after a decade of rapid growth). But when we looked for data to back that up, we actually found that between Q2 2013 and Q2 2014, the average connection speed in the United States actually saw a 138% increase (check out Akamai’s State of the Internet for those numbers).

United States Average Internet Speed

Looks like we were wrong about the plateau-theory…

So apparently, we couldn’t just blame the speed of the users’ internet connections. As you can see above, users’ internet speeds have been increasing along with eCommerce website page sizes. And while those two elements are likely not increasing in the exact same increments, this did cause us to think that maybe larger pages can’t be made into the sole scapegoat. So we began to think a little harder, and we came up with an alternative explanation. From our experience, eCommerce sites have been including more and more third-party plugins and widgets (which obviously have to be called up when a page is first loading). And while we don’t have any hard data to show that the average number of widgets on eCommerce sites is increasing, it could definitely be a factor (with each additional plugin that a site has to load comes an additional server that has to be pinged, so before you know it, the site is relying on data from tons of servers other than its own). On top of the fact that other servers might not be as fast as your own, the very act of calling data from other servers is going to cause a delay in the page loading fully.

But we could be wrong. Do you have a better idea of what’s going on? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below!

Roshni Isaac
Roshni Isaac
Roshni is passionate about all things analytical: dreaming up different ways of using analytical techniques to improve businesses is what keeps her up at night! She has extensive experience in the field of digital analytics and conversion rate optimization. Feel free to email her with any questions related to analytics and optimization.