March 22, 2011, 12:35 PM

Sears and Walmart.com put on two very different performances

Sears makes steady progress while Walmart.com plunges on weekly performance index.

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The merchant improved its m-commerce home page load time by 1.39 seconds over the course of two weeks.

It doesn’t take much to make significant improvements in mobile commerce site performance, as Sears Holdings Corp. demonstrated this past week. For the second week in a row, the m-commerce site of Sears has moved up two spots on the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index, putting it at No. 11 of the 15 retailers tested.

“Sears has moved up two positions two weeks in a row by improving its mobile page load time by 1.39 seconds, a 10.9% improvement compared to its average load time three weeks ago,” says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote Systems Inc. “Upon closer examination of the monitoring data, Sears achieved its faster load time by reducing the overall page size. The largest noticeable reduction came from a Cascading Style Sheet object that was reduced from 174 kilobytes to 2.4 kilobytes. Because of lower throughput and higher latency of wireless networks, a change like this can easily be the difference between a user waiting for a page to load or abandoning a mobile site.”

Throughput is the amount of data that can be passed through a network per second. Latency is the amount of delay when data passes from a web server to a client device, such as a smartphone or PC. Each element of a network causes some amount of delay as data passes through it.

Sears did not respond to a request for comment.

Walmart.com was not so successful. It dropped nine positions to No. 14. This was driven by a very low success rate—the percentage of times the m-commerce site downloaded successfully—of 94.87%. 10 of the 15 retailers on the index had success rates of 98.5% or higher. The average success rate on this week’s index was 98.22%.

Walmart.com had an intermittent site issue lasting one and a half days last week,” Ng says. “Its overall success rate during that time period was 80.05%. However, when the site was working properly, page load time was not affected significantly. Issues like these can be enough to drive any mobile user to visit another mobile commerce site.”

Walmart.com did not respond to a request for comment.

Click here then click on Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index to see the complete results of all 15 retailers on the index.

Keynote Systems 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 Sears Holdings Corp. and Foot Locker Inc. to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut and K&L Wine Merchants. 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: Apple Inc.’s iPhone on AT&T, the BlackBerry Curve on Sprint and the Droid (which uses Google Inc.’s Android operating system) on Verizon.

Keynote combines a site’s load time and success rate, equally weighted, into a single score. Given both performance and availability are important, the score reflects the overall quality of the home page; a higher score indicates better performance. Scores also reflect how close sites are to each other in overall quality. The index average score is the midpoint among all the sites’ scores.

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