September 26, 2013, 12:52 PM

Staples stops making so many requests

Changes to its m-commerce site cut page load time, Keynote says.

Lead Photo

The chain retailer's m-commerce site home page loads on average in 10.96 seconds, Keynote says.

Office supplies kingpin Staples Inc. was making a lot of requests when customers were trying to access its mobile commerce site home page—50, to be exact.

Mobile and web performance management firm Keynote analyzed the performance of the mobile site’s home page and found that during the week ending Sept. 15 the page was filled with 50 HTTP requests. An HTTP request is a protocol for requesting data from a server to build a site. During the most recent week, ending Sept. 22, the Staples mobile home page made only 11 HTTP requests, Keynote says. The fewer requests, the faster a site can load.

39 fewer HTTP requests combined with other positive factors stemming from a page update on Sept. 16 helped Staples, No. 21 in the newly published Internet Retailer Mobile 500, shave 4.61 seconds from its m-commerce site home page load time, according to the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index. Staples shot up 12 spots to No. 9 on the 30-retailer mobile index.

“Also, the total number of bytes on Staples’ mobile home page was cut in half, and some content failures—consistent HTTP 404 Not Found errors on page components—were corrected,” says Ken Harker, a mobile performance analyst at Keynote. An HTTP 404 error means an element needed to build a page cannot be found. “The result was dramatic: Page load times fell from 15.57 seconds on average to 10.96 seconds on average, with many page loads completing in under 5 seconds. With fewer assets on a page, there are fewer potential points of failure.”

The lesson for other sites in mobile retail is clear: Modest page element counts can lead to faster, more reliable performance, Harker adds.

Staples acknowledges the mobile site changes but declines to go into details. “Staples continues to develop and optimize our mobile assets to enhance our customer’s shopping experience,” says Faisal Masud, executive vice president, global e-commerce.

Sears Holdings Corp. topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index with a load time of 3.13 seconds and a success rate of 99.69%. Weighting and combining load time and success rate (also known as site availability) earned Sears an index score of a perfect 1,000. Toolfetch.com LLC came in second with a load time of 3.60 seconds and a success rate of 99.59% for a score of 993. And W.W. Grainger Inc. came in third with a load time of 5.52 seconds and a success rate of 99.69% for a score of 970.

The index average load time was 12.84 seconds, the average success rate was 95.51% and the average score was 849.

Sears is No. 30 in the Internet Retailer Mobile 500, Toolfetch.com is No. 352 and Grainger is No. 92.

Click here then click on Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index Part 1 and Part 2 to view complete results for all 30 retailers on the index.

Keynote 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 mid-sized retailers like Toolfetch.com LLC. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating two different smartphones on two different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 on AT&T and the Samsung Galaxy SIII on T-Mobile, both using 4G networks. 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. To consistently rank high on the Keynote index, sites must hit availability targets of 99.5% or better and be faster than 10 seconds to load on average. Top performing sites load in under 5 seconds.

While 4G adoption among U.S. consumers has been steadily rising, only a fraction of all U.S. wireless connections are 4G. Consequently, retailers benchmarking their mobile commerce site performance against the Keynote index should keep in mind that most of their m-commerce site shoppers will experience page load times slower than those on the index.

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