March 28, 2013, 4:08 PM

Keeping slim helps fight the whims of wireless networks

Best Buy reduced its mobile home page weight and realized improved performance.

The performance of wireless carrier networks can fluctuate greatly. Retailers with mobile commerce web sites are in part at the mercy of carriers when it comes to mobile site performance. Slowdowns at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon can mean higher page load times for m-commerce sites.

But there is one thing retailers can do to combat inconsistent wireless network performance, and that is keep their mobile site pages as light in kilobytes as possible, says mobile and web performance management firm Keynote. The lighter the page, the less time it will have to spend on a wireless network, and the smaller the opportunity for the page to fall prey to poor network performance, Keynote says.

Best Buy Co. Inc. jumped four spots to No. 3 on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending March 24. It did so by slimming down.

“Best Buy rose on the index through more consistent performance across AT&T, Sprint and Verizon,” says Abelardo Gonzalez, mobile performance expert at Keynote. “Best Buy optimized the content on its mobile home page, reducing the overall number of bytes downloaded while keeping the number of page objects stable. By reducing the total bytes downloaded, page performance is less susceptible to fluctuations in download speed a wireless carrier may experience and the retailer can deliver consistent performance to end users.”

A page object could be an image, a box of text, a tracking pixel or a web analytics call, among other things. Best Buy kept the number of page objects at 18 but reduced the page weight from 150 kilobytes to 120 kilobytes, Keynote says.

Best Buy did not respond to an inquiry about how it reduced its page weight.

For the week ending March 24, Best Buy’s load time was 5.92 seconds and its success rate was 99.87%, according to the index. Weighting and then combining load time and success rate earned the retailer an index score of 899 out of 1,000.

Toolfetch.com LLC topped the index with a load time of a swift 2.67 seconds and a success rate of 99.25% for a score of 921. Barnes & Noble came in second with a load time of 4.38 seconds and a success rate of 99.50% for a score of 900.

Best Buy is No. 25 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 400, Toolfetch.com is No. 248 and BarnesandNoble.com Inc. is No. 31.

The index average load time was 8.43 seconds, the average success rate was 99.00% and the average score was 710.

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.

Keynote is ranked No. 2 among web performance monitoring firms in Internet Retailer’s Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-retailers guide.

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