February 21, 2003, 12:00 AM

As Valentine’s traffic grows, so do web site errors

Among eight popular Valentine’s Day web destinations, transaction failures before the holiday were as high as one in 20, an Empirix study finds.

A study of the performance of eight popular Valentine’s Day web destinations over the eight days leading up to the holiday showed applications failures in as many as one in 20 transactions.

The study by web performance monitoring services provider Empirix Inc. tracked the success rate for a three-step transaction: navigating to the site’s home page, initiating a search, and confirming that correct results came back from the search. The transactions were repeated at one-hour intervals, 24 hours a day, at each tested site over the eight days.

The testing showed a downward trend in transaction success rates and response times and an increase in applications errors as the holiday approached and traffic grew. Performance was at its lowest Feb. 10 and 11, as last-minute shoppers flocked to the sites to avoid overnight shipping charges.

Failure rates were highest at the web sites of Ghirardelli Chocolates and florist KaBloom. Over the eight days, the transaction success rate at Ghirardelli.com had a low of 96.2% while KaBloom.com had a low of 95.4%, meaning that approximately one in 20 transactions failed. Meanwhile, chocolatier Godiva.com turned in the best performance with a transaction success rate that averaged 99.9% over the eight days and was 100% on six of the days. The average transaction success rate across all eight sites was 99%.

Transaction response times also varied. The web site of Lindt Chocolatier was slowest with an average 6.8 second response time over the eight days and a high of 11 seconds on Feb. 10. Flower site FTD.com was the fastest, with an average 1.9 second response time. The average response time across all sites was 3.5 seconds.

While performance success rates that rank only a few percentage points off 100% might not initially seem poor, Empirix vice president of product management and marketing Walter Vahey points out that the failure rate of telephone systems, an important ordering mechanism for catalog sales, is never more than in the range of thousandths of a percentage point.

“Retail sites depend on consumer loyalty, because it’s so easy for visitors to just click to a competitor’s site,” he says. “That’s why delivering a consistently good experience through the entire transaction is so important. Now that using the web is more mainstream, people are expecting the same level of reliability in Internet applications that they get through the telephone.”

 

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