August 7, 2012, 10:01 AM

Mobile consumers expect speed greater than many retailers are providing

Slow m-commerce sites may lose customers, Keynote Systems finds in a new survey.

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The ‘expectation gap’ for mobile performance has tightened considerably, and retailers, travel companies, ticket sellers and other companies with mobile sites ignore these increased expectations for fast performance at their own peril, mobile and web performance management firm Keynote Systems Inc. says.

The firm bases this conclusion on the results of a new survey of 5,000 U.S. adults with smartphones and/or tablets. When asked about frustrating mobile web experiences over the past two months, two-thirds of smartphone users cited “Web pages slow to load.” The next largest pain point felt by nearly half of the panel was “Web site not optimized for smartphone.”

The expectation gap is clear. 64% of smartphone users want a site to load within four seconds; 82% within five seconds, the Keynote survey finds. The average page load time for the m-commerce site home pages of 30 representative retailers on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending August 5 was 7.54 seconds. Some retailers delivered load times as fast as 2.77 seconds and 3.59 seconds, while some delivered load times as slow as 14.65 seconds and 15.20 seconds.

By comparison, 60% of tablet users expect to wait less than three seconds for a page to load while 48% of PC users want page load speeds faster than two seconds, the survey finds.

Brands should beware: 16% of mobile users will not return or wait for a site to load if it takes too long and 6% will go to a competitor’s site, the Keynote survey says.

The survey also asked what smartphone and tablet users do on their devices. Of special note to retailers and travel companies, tablet users are much more likely than smartphone users to purchase something through mobile commerce (62% versus 47%) or book travel (41% versus 29%).

The top five activities on smartphones include accessing local information such as maps and event locations (88%), searching for general information (82%), participating in social media or social networking sites (76%), reading news and entertainment (75%), and finding local services like ATMs or retail stores (74%).

Tablet users painted a somewhat different picture. Most tablet users access news and entertainment (79%), searching for information follows close behind (77%), then watching videos (76%), accessing location information (75%) and participating in social networks (75%) round out the top five activities.

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