September 14, 2010, 5:44 PM

Sears and Target move up in m-commerce site performance index

But overall index score is dragged down by some poorly performing merchants.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The Sears m-commerce site home page last week loaded on average in 6.47 seconds and did so successfully 99.33% of the time.

Sears rose seven spots and Target four on the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index, bursting into the top five performers on the index of 15 m-commerce players.

For the week beginning Sept. 6, Sears came in third with an index score of 756 out of 1,000, its m-commerce site home page loading on average in 6.47 seconds and loading successfully 99.33% of the time. Target came in fourth with a score of 751, its mobile home page loading in 4.96 seconds with a success rate of 98.94%.

Walmart.com came in first with a score of 865, and Barnes and Noble came in second at 811.

The index average score was 590, down from 730 the previous week. On the current index, the typical load time was 5.31 seconds and the success rate was 98.31%. Click here and select Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index to see complete results for all 15 merchants for the week beginning Sept. 6.

Keynote Systems, a mobile and web performance management firm, measures 15 representative m-commerce sites exclusively for Internet Retailer. The sites include merchants in various categories and channels, and of various sizes, ranging from such giants as Dell and Walgreens to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut and Toolfetch.com.

Keynote repeatedly tests the sites in the index Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating three different smartphones on three different wireless networks: the iPhone on AT&T, the BlackBerry Curve on Sprint and the Droid (which uses the Android operating system) on Verizon. Load times and success rates are equally weighted and combined to create the index score.

The index average score was dragged down by some retailers whose site performance suffered last week. Coming in at No. 15, for example, Ylang 23 had a score of 183, its m-commerce site home page loading on average in a considerable 11.19 seconds with a success rate of 97.91%.

“The Ylang 23 site could have been slow for a host of reasons, including web server and/or back-end infrastructure issues, data speed over carriers, number of page objects, and content type or content size,” says Herman Ng, evangelist in the mobile solutions group at Keynote. “A relatively small, unnoticeable latency over the web can easily get amplified and become a 5- to 10-second delay over a wireless connection. A 30-kilobyte image that is working perfectly fine on an e-commerce page can have a major impact on the end user mobile web experience and easily repel visitors from coming to the site in the future.”

But Ylang 23 says that the nature of its business, high-end designer jewelry, requires high-quality imagery that can slow down load times.

“We’re selling $20,000 pieces of jewelry, not log splitters or auto parts,” says Joanne Teichman, owner and managing director of Ylang 23. “I pulled up a picture on a big box's mobile site and it was 1.87 kilobytes; one of our thumbnails is 3.49 kilobytes and the product picture is 7.6 kilobytes. We are not willing to compromise on the quality of the picture our clients are looking for. If a mobile commerce shopper is disappointed in the load time for Barnes & Noble, they will go to Amazon or another bookstore to look for their books. But they will not find my jewelry anywhere else. They are there to see the jewelry, and if they are frustrated with a page being held up, they will go to a desktop computer and pull up the web site.”

Teichman also says that Ylang 23’s m-commerce site is first generation, and that the next generation site will address various aspects of mobile retailing, including performance.

“For who we are and what we’re doing, we have some progress to make, but we are not disappointed with where we are. If you were to measure us against other sites in high-end categories, you would see us as performing better, though still not what I would like to have,” she says. “Is there a lot of room for improvement? Yes. Have we already started on that? Yes. We’ve been in e-commerce for 10 years and it’s been a lot of fun choosing which bells and whistles to invest in to move the business forward. M-commerce is in its infancy, and it’s very exciting to know there’s a long way to go with all that opportunity out there.”

Retailers in the index include Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Dell, Foot Locker, K&L Wines, Sears, StrandBooks.com, Sunglass Hut, Target, Toolfetch.com, Victoria’s Secret, Walmart.com, Walgreens, Ylang 23 and Your Electronic Warehouse.

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