March 7, 2013, 10:52 AM

Faster page loads boost an office supply retailer’s sales

US Markerboard increased conversions by 25% with site optimization software.

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After reducing its average page load time from nine seconds to three using optimization software from technology provider Riverbed, online school, home and office supplies retailer US Markerboard increased its conversion rate by 25% compared to the period right before implementing the software, says Scott Newman, president and CEO. The speedier pages also led to a 65% lift in the average number of products per order and a 15% increase in average order value, he says.

Previously, every time US Markerboard made a change or added something to its site, such as adding live chat, its page load times would slow considerably, Newman says. Rather than devote time and money to look for ways internally to recode the site, the retailer in 2010 decided to seek a vendor’s assistance. It settled on Riverbed after vetting two other vendors, he says. Riverbed matched the two in price, which he declines to share but says was a reasonable investment for a medium-size e-retailer—US Markerboard has annual revenue under $15 million, he says.

“Not only did it have to do with performance, but it had to do with their accessibility,” he says. “When we called them they were very prompt in getting back with us, they were interested and eager to help get the software loaded, and they’re on top of the ball if we ever have bugs to get out.”

Riverbed’s site optimization software, Stingray Aptimizer, loads onto a retailer’s servers and is ready to use in about an hour, Newman says. A step-by-step wizard guides the installation so that even a non-technical staff member can manage the process, he adds. Then, the software essentially runs on autopilot, Newman says, while also providing historical logs for clients who want to track site performance over time.

The software speeds page load times by compressing data elements on a site—such as videos, images, social sharing buttons—into a single file to send to a consumer’s computer. Then, rather than making several requests to the US Markerboard server to download each element, the computer only makes a single request, Newman says. When it gets the file containing the images, it can open and load them itself—and by that time, US Markerboard’s server has already moved on to fill another consumer’s page load requests, he adds.

And, thanks in part to its faster load times, the bounce rate, or the percentage of visitors who view only one site page and leave, dipped 10%, he says. Additionally, US Markerboard customers view 8% more web pages on the e-commerce site per visit, and overall page views are up 27%.

Mike Gualtieri, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says site optimization software like Riverbed’s is just one of multiple technologies retailers need to maintain top web site performance. They should also have in place a reliable content delivery network and performance monitoring tools, he says.

US Markerboard is No. 691 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide.

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