January 29, 2013, 11:12 AM

J.C. Penney breaks into the top 10 of a mobile performance index

And some simple fixes could boost it higher, Keynote says.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The retailer's m-commerce site home page loaded on average in 9.25 seconds.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. continued its upward trek on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Jan. 27. It moved up five positions to No. 10, which was up from No. 21 earlier in the month.

The department store chain has been moving up the index in part due to an improved success rate, the percentage of the time its m-commerce site home page loads completely and successfully. Its success rate last week was 99.5%, up from 99.24% for the week ending Jan. 20. Its page load time last week was 9.25 seconds, down from 9.31 seconds the previous week.

To crack the top five on the index, J.C. Penney could speed its page loads: Every site ranked higher on the index is faster than J.C. Penney, and sites in the top five rankings are 2-3 seconds faster on average, says Ken Harker, mobile performance strategist at mobile and web performance management firm Keynote.

“A core performance concern on the J.C. Penney mobile home page is the number of redirections a site visitor must get through from typing in JCPenney.com until the HTML base page is delivered,” Harker says. “Many mobile-optimized retail sites might require a single redirection—going from the www server to the m-dot server, for example. The J.C. Penney site, however, uses three redirections. The accumulated delay from the redirections can easily add 1.5 to 2.0 seconds of extra waiting for the site visitor. This extra delay is especially bad for the user experience because it happens before the initial rendering of the page.”

Another core performance issue on the iPhone version of the J.C. Penney m-commerce site home page is an excessive number of small Cascading Style Sheet, or CSS, and JavaScript files in the page design, Harker says. The site uses four CSS and eight JavaScript files for the iPhone, and half of those are smaller than 2 kilobytes, he says. The latency involved with making so many small requests from the server can be avoided by consolidating the CSS and JavaScript content into fewer files, he says.

“Eliminating the redirections—or at least two of them—and consolidating core content into fewer file requests could easily move J.C. Penney up in the mobile index rankings and give J.C. Penney customers a much better impression of the site and the brand,” Harker concludes.

J.C. Penney, No. 37 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400, declined to comment.

Office Depot Inc. topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Jan. 27. It had a load time of a swift 2.86 seconds and a success rate of 99.46%. Weighting and combining load time and success rate earned the retailer an index score of 969. Rakuten Buy.com came in second with a load time of 4.60 seconds and a success rate of 99.78% for a score of 965. And Barnes & Noble came in third with a load time of 5.07 seconds and a success rate of 99.79% for a score of 955.

Office Depot is No. 65 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400. Rakuten Buy.com is No. 30 and BarnesandNoble.com Inc. is No. 31.

The index average load time was 9.18 seconds, the average success rate was 98.90% and the average score was 788.

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 multiple categories and channels, and of multiple sizes, ranging from such giants as Amazon.com Inc. to midsized retailers like Toolfetch.com LLC. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating three different smartphones on three different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC Evo on Sprint and the Droid X on Verizon. The HTC Evo and the Droid X run Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Keynote runs the tests in New York and San Francisco.

Keynote combines a site’s load time and success rate, equally weighted, into a single score. Given that 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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