January 20, 2011, 1:32 PM

Barnes & Noble was tops in mobile site reliability during the holidays

The bookseller’s mobile site scored the highest reliability scores on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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As more consumers shopped via mobile devices during the holiday 2010 shopping season, the mobile sites for Barnes & Noble, StrandBooks.com, Walmart.com, Dell and SunglassHut stood out as the highest performers in both reliability and load speed, Keynote Systems Inc., a mobile and web performance management firm, says in a report it made available exclusively to Internet Retailer based on its Mobile Commerce Performance Index of 15 mobile commerce sites.

Barnes & Noble fared best in terms of reliability during peak shopping days, with its mobile site available without interruption 98.91% of the time on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and 99.24% of the time on Cyber Monday. The bookseller’s overall reliability score from Nov. 25 through Dec. 31 was 98.74%, tied for first place in the Keynote index with StrandBooks.com. StrandBooks also ranked top among sites in the index for average page load time.

Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote, says sites like Barnes & Noble and StrandBooks.com manage to maintain quick load times by limiting the number of objects, such as icons and images, on their mobile site pages, and by optimizing their mobile sites for multiple devices including iPhones, Android phones and BlackBerrys.

Ng also notes, however, that mobile commerce retailers need to be aware that load times and reliability can also vary according to the kind of mobile Internet access available to users.

“Wireless carriers advertise the maximum bandwidth speed they have available, but that’s not always available in all areas, so performance can vary depending on where a user is and the local conditions,” he says.

Ng advises mobile commerce retailers to test load times and reliability levels for different types of mobile devices before, during and after peak shopping periods. “You have to look at ongoing trends,” he says. Retailers should then take the necessary steps to optimize their mobile sites.

Ben Rushlo, director of web performance at Keynote, adds that e-commerce web sites also should test peak period performance, which is more of an issue for many e-commerce sites with the increasing use of web content that is based on third-party sites. It’s also more of an issue because of greater use of Ajax and other technologies that rely on users’ web browsers to serve dynamic content.

“A typical product page could have content served by six to 10 third-party vendors, and you have to test how it all comes together for the user,” he says. Those vendors offer services such as product recommendations, analytics and ad networks.   

Following are the overall reliability scores of the 15 retailers in the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the period of Nov. 25 through Dec. 31:

● Barnes & Noble, 98.74%

● StrandBooks.com, 98.74%

● Sunglass Hut, 98.66%

● Dell, 98.65%

● Amazon.com, 98.62%

● Your Electronic Warehouse, 98.55%

● Walmart.com, 98.49%

● K&L Wine Merchants, 98.42%

● Victoria’s Secret, 98.41%

● Walgreens, 98.41%

● Best Buy, 98.31%

● Target, 98.01%

● Foot Locker, 97.69%

● Sears, 97.33%

● ToolFetch.com, 95.67%

In terms of load time for mobile commerce sites, StrandBooks.com led all retailers in the index with an average of 2.60 seconds for the period from Nov. 25 through Dec. 31. Following are the average load times, in seconds, during that period for the 15 retailers in the index:

● StrandBooks.com, 2.60

● Walmart.com, 4.39

● Sunglass Hut, 5.05

● Dell, 5.28

● Barnes & Noble, 5.41

● Your Electronic Warehouse, 5.46

● Walgreens, 6.25

● Amazon.com, 6.26

● ToolFetch.com, 6.64

● Victoria’s Secret, 7.54

● K&L Wine Merchants, 7.66

● Target, 7.92

● Sears, 8.65

● Best Buy, 9.40

● Foot Locker, 10.76

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