August 11, 2011, 9:32 AM

A major change boosts Target’s m-commerce site performance, Keynote finds

Was it a “code dump” that boosted the reliability of the mobile site?

Lead Photo

The merchant's m-commerce site successfully downloaded 98.56% of the time last week.

Something happened to Target Corp.’s mobile commerce site on July 24, and in the aftermath, its load time—the amount of time it takes to load the m-commerce site home page—and its success rate—the percentage of the time the mobile home page loads completely and successfully—improved. Those improvements sent Target upward on the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index.

In last week’s index, Target’s success rate improved 3.95 percentage points to 98.08%; that improvement was largely responsible for the retailer moving from No. 29 to No. 19. This week, Target’s success rate improved one half of a percentage point to 98.56%, with its load time decreasing 0.03 seconds to 9.48 seconds; these improvements bumped Target up from No. 19 last week to No. 16 this week.

Mobile and web performance management firm Keynote Systems Inc. noticed in its monitoring data that for a very brief period of time on July 24, the Target m-commerce site was inaccessible across all four wireless carriers on which it tests the retailers on the index. Keynote says when something like this happens, it likely means a major change is occurring, and that what Target may have executed is what’s called in web developer parlance a “code dump.” This means a merchant has radically restructured the code on which an m-commerce site is built.

“Changes were made to the site July 24th, and after the change the m-commerce site’s success rate and speed improved,” says Haroon Chohan, mobile performance expert at Keynote Systems. “With more and more users visiting retail sites through a mobile device, it’s critically important that retailers continuously look at mobile site speed and reliability, both of which can be improved by looking at page construction, page content, the number of URL redirects and more. By focusing on such specifics the experience end users will have on a mobile device will be more consistent and a closer approximation to the experience they would have using a desktop browser.”

Target did not respond to a request for comment.

This week, Dell Inc.’s m-commerce site topped the index with a load time of 4.76 seconds and a success rate of 98.42%, earning a score of 994 out of 1,000. Walmart.com came in second with a load time of 5.19 seconds and a success rate of 98.86% for a score of 988. And Walgreen Co. came in third with a load time of 5.84 seconds and a success rate of 98.91% for a score of 974.

The index average load time for all retailers on the index was 9.09 seconds, the average success rate was 97.48% and the average score was 889.

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 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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