Online retailers seem to have learned their lessons from past holiday shopping seasons. A new measure of retail web site responsiveness from Speedera Networks Inc. reveals few glitches on Monday, the heavy first day of online holiday shopping. Despite the increased traffic, Internet retailers outperformed the overall Speedera SpeedRank 100 Index of major global web sites, Speedera reports.
“Historically, the sites of online retailers have been significantly faster and their availability has been superior to web sites run by other industries,” says Dave Asprey, director of distributed applications at Speedera Networks and chief architect of the Speedera SpeedRank 100 Index. “Especially over the last three years, many e-retailers have adopted best practices to ensure that customers are not turned away from their sites.”
Some sites did however experience “embedded content” errors which can cause performance problems for some users. Speedera defines embedded content as graphics or third party banner ads. “From the user’s perspective, whether the source of the poor performance is the HTML base page or the embedded content makes little difference,” Speedera says. “In either case, the site appears slow or the page has broken images, undermining the brand image the e-retailer wants to portray.”
Speedera reported the following from the retail sites it Speedera measured:
• Among some of the most highly visited sites, Barnes & Nobles held up well, with the exception of a few time-out errors from its content delivery network provider.
• Web page download time for Land’s End increased by nearly 25%, pushing it down to #4 in the SpeedRank performance rankings.
• Wal-Mart.com, which has stated it expects a 60% increase in online sales compared with last year, experienced a number of problems, mainly embedded content errors and timeouts.
• Macys.com experienced problems with embedded content timeout errors, which slowed the performance of the site. Speedera says the errors are mostly from embedded links to another Macy’s server called assets.macys.com, which appeared to be overloaded with the volume of images it had to serve.
“Under heavy load, some companies still have scaling problems with back-end servers or third party content delivery services, which slowed sites,” Speedera said. “Greater monitoring of internal servers would prevent such problems in the future for Macy’s and others,” Asprey said. Asprey also urged retailers with delivery problems to undertake architectural upgrades using a distributed application approach.
In another study of retailers’ web site responsiveness from Gomez Inc., WalMart.com logged 54 seconds to load the home page, placing it last of the 20 sites that Gomez reviewed. Similarly, the new Sears.com experienced slow response times throughout the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Gomez reports that apparel sites fared better than mass merchants in transactional response time and reliability with an average of 99% over the weekend. Apparel sites transaction times improved by 4.5 seconds from Gomez`s pre-holiday measurement.
But narrowband access is becoming a problem for some consumers, especially at Gap.com, CircuitCity.com and BestBuy.com, where dial-up customers experienced delays in comparison with broadband users. Gomez reports that dial-up users required 100 seconds to complete a transaction vs. 15-20 seconds for broadband users.