E-commerce is a huge business channel and is growing every year. Brick and mortar stores struggle to compete with the power of online and we have seen many of them just disappear. This year the e-commerce forecast is pegged at a 20.1% growth rate from last year and will top out at approximately 1.5 trillion dollars ($1,500,000,000,000). Given the expected ongoing growth rate we expect that in 3 more years the online revenues will be in excess of 2.3 trillion dollars. And all of this spending is supported by the internet and an army of servers around the globe. With these kinds of dollars and growth in play, we thought it would be interesting to see just how retailers are responding and performing with their e-commerce sites.
Late last year Monitis implemented a new and exciting program for monitoring and rating the worlds leading retailers during expected peak internet/e-commerce periods. The program was kicked off as the Christmas shopping season swung into high gear. Billions of dollars are spent every holiday season online and we wanted to see how this huge increase in traffic was handled. As we entered the new year we scheduled the next rating competition to measure the performance of the advertisers for the Super Bowl. And most recently we did the same monitoring and rating for retailers that would be impacted by the Valentines Day surge. The official name of the program is OMREX – “Online Monitis Retailer Excellence” and the sole goal is to select the probably major retailers that will be seeing large increased traffic for a given holiday or event and then to measure their online performance. We monitored the sites for things such as; Uptime and full page load times.
During the Christmas season we saw the following;
(1) Three of the four top performing online shops in terms of average response time are based in the United Kingdom.
(2) US retailers are top notch in regards to full page load. Three of the best four are headquartered in the States.
(3) Traditional retailers tend to outperform Amazon, the “mother of all online shops”, on average response time and full page load.
(4) Brazil is the country with the longest wait in reference to average response time. However, the full page load values are an entirely different story: Mercado Livre is among the four best performing retailers in that respect.
(5) The German retailers are the ones with the most failures. Three of the four online shops with the most failures are located in Germany.
(6) Amazon.com and Target.com.au are the only two retailers with no failures at all throughout the entire review.
The next campaign for OMREX was the Super Bowl, targeted at the companies who pay millions of dollars to have mere 30 second blocks of advertising. The companies monitored included; Budweiser, Cheerios, Coca Cola, Okios Joghurt and Radio Shack. The websites of these companies were up and running and Budweiser, Cheerios and Radio Shack had good response times (well under the 500 ms expectation threshold). Sadly, Coca Cola was over twice the industry standard for response time and Okios Joghurt, while it hovered right around it it also suffered 58 minutes of downtime between the 2 days tested.
While the uptime values may not concern system administrators, the average response times will most likely cause problems for the technical staff involved. A rule of thumb is that the AVG-value should be below 500 ms. This means that both Coca-Cola and Dannon Oikos did not make that critical threshold on day one of the review. The Coca-Cola website even had issues in this regard throughout the entire testing period. This may be attributed to the company’s “It so beautiful” campaign that sparked controversy across a variety of social channels. What is even more striking, however, is the fact that none of the monitored websites made the desirable full page load time of four seconds at all.
“Regardless of the full page load issues, the good news is that none of the websites we checked crashed”, comments Mikayel Vardanyan, Director of Operations at Monitis. “We also found that some system administrators may have room for optimization with regards to the content they use on their web pages if they want to guarantee the best possible user experience. Some content will naturally need some more time to download than others, but you may bridge that gap by providing some animation in the foreground while the rest of the content downloads in the background. That way the user experience is not being hampered.”
The Valentine Day OMREX event once again showed that companies need to be paying more attention to their online presence and the users experience. We monitored seven e-commerce sites (Proflower, Tiffany, Victories Secret, Interflora, Fleurop, Swarowski, Flores Online). Of these seven only 2 were up 100% of the time and sadly Victoria Secrets suffered a large 48 minute block where their website was down. When we moved from uptime monitoring to watching how long it took a full page to load on each site the news wasn’t great either. The optimum standard in the industry is that a website should load in 3 seconds or less, otherwise clients start leaving, never to return. In our sample group only one retailer, Proflower, succeeded in meeting that – with a nice speedy 1 second page load. The rest in our sample group suffered with full page loads between 4 and 7 seconds. Clearly these site have significant work to do.
Monitis will be scheduling ongoing OMREX events, so stay tuned for the next ones and let’s see if things improve.