July 27, 2011, 3:42 PM

Retailers on average return mobile search results in 9.7 seconds, Keynote finds

Performance firm says search speed is equally as important as home page load time.

Lead Photo

The merchant returns site search results quickly in part because the first results page is a list of categories a shopper must use to refine the search.

Most consumers enter a mobile commerce web site through the home page, as opposed, for example, to coming in via a paid search or display ad, m-commerce experts say. This is why the time it takes for an m-commerce site home page to successfully load is key.

But there’s another area in m-commerce where speed is equally as important: site search. Mobile shoppers tend to be hunters not browsers—they typically know what they want and want to find it fast. This is why the time it takes from when a shopper hits search to when the search results page is fully loaded is important.

Mobile and web performance measurement firm Keynote Systems Inc. last week studied the search results page load time for the retailers on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index and found that on average the pages successfully downloaded in 9.7 seconds.

“It’s just as important for a retailer’s mobile site to have good search performance as it is to have speedy home page performance,” says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote Systems. “Both are critical elements in reducing user abandonment, keeping users engaged, and ultimately increasing both mobile and in-store sales.”

Keynote last week performed multiple searches on the retailers in the index using a Motorola Droid X smartphone on the Verizon wireless network from four locations in the U.S. Macy’s Inc. achieved the quickest load time at 3.86 seconds. However, the m-commerce site of Macy’s does not return a list of items; rather, it categorizes the search results page and requires a shopper to first refine results by selecting a category. Walgreen Co. came in second at 6.40 seconds. Walgreens returned six items on the first page of its search results, the lowest number compared with other retailers.

On average, retailers returned 15 items on the first page of search results. Three merchants—Buy.com Inc., Overstock.com Inc. and Walmart.com—use a page construction technique called “infinite scrolling,” Keynote says. Using this technique, a retailer lets shoppers click a Load More button at the bottom of the initial search results;  to show moreresults on the same page. This also can be achieved by swiping the bottom of the page, which automatically loads more content.

“Infinite scrolling is an interesting strategy retailers should look into,” Ng says.

When it comes to m-commerce site home page performance, the metric measured every week on the index, the average load time for all 30 retailers on the index was 9.08 seconds and the average success rate was 98.25%, for a score of 763 out of 1,000.

Click here and then click on Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index Part 1 and Part 2 to see this week’s complete results for all 30 retailers on the index.

Keynote Systems measures 30 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 Amazon.com Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut, Toolfetch.com LLC and Your Electronic Warehouse. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating four different smartphones on four different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC Evo on Sprint, the BlackBerry Curve on T-Mobile and the Droid X on Verizon. The HTC Evo and the Droid X run Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

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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