March 7, 2012, 3:44 PM

Brownells takes aim at site performance

The firearms e-retailer analyzes data to pinpoint ways to reduce response times.

Lead Photo

Brownells Inc., the operator of three e-commerce sites that sell firearms and related supplies, says that being an e-retail leader means providing a web site experience that surpasses consumers’ expectations.

To that end, Brownells monitors and tracks the performance not only of its sites—Brownells.com, PoliceStore.com and SinclairIntl.com—but also competitors’ sites to make sure it remains ahead of the pack. Brownells uses SmartBear Software’s AlertSite service to monitor the performance and load times for itself and its competitors, and to generate alerts should something go wrong on any of its own sites. The retailer uses the collected data to benchmark performance and to suggest improvements Brownells needs to make, says Clayton Whipple, Brownells’ director of e-commerce. “We use that information to figure out how we can do it better,” he says.

The retailer, for example, has reduced page load times by 30% to 40% over the last 18 months, Whipple says, because it improved programming for its e-commerce sites. The retailer also pinpointed where slow-loading vendor services were slowing page load times.

Brownells also uses AlertSite data to benchmark its own performance against leading e-retailers outside of its own product category. This led Brownells to recently start using a content delivery network, which further sped page load times to consumers around the globe. Content delivery networks help web pages render more quickly because they deliver content that is stored on web servers that may be geographically closer to the consumer making the page request. “We don’t want to be as good as all the major online retailers. We want to better,” Whipple says. “Consumers may shop us, but they shop other sites, too, and, directly or not, they are comparing us to those experiences.”

He says these improvements have led to higher sales, though he provided no specifics. “When we give our customers a faster, cleaner site, we do see an increase in conversions, and that leads to dollars,” Whipple says.

Brownells is No. 615 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide.

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