November 18, 2013, 4:02 PM

Five tips to ensure top mobile performance during the holidays

Mobile commerce sites will feel the heat in the weeks ahead, Compuware says.

Lead Photo

This year, smartphones will play their biggest role yet in holiday shopping, both online and in-store, as the number of smartphone owners continues to grow and consumers rely ever more heavily on smartphones for their daily activities. 68% of smartphone owners will use their devices to shop this holiday season, according to the 28th annual holiday shopping survey from research and consulting giant Deloitte LLP.

Consequently, retailers with mobile commerce web sites need to make sure these smartphone-optimized sites perform well, meaning fast page load times and near-perfect site availability. During the holidays, wireless networks are clogged and shoppers needs are more urgent, says Rob Duross, digital performance consultant at Compuware Professional Services, which specializes in performance, mobile and analytics technologies. Further, mobile web browsers are inherently unpredictable and mobile shoppers inherently want things quickly, Duross adds.

M-commerce sites will be pushed to their limits this holiday season, and there are five things retailers can do to ensure mobile pages load on smartphones swiftly and mobile sites are essentially always available, Duross says. To achieve peak performance, retailers, Duross advises, should:

* Reduce animation. TV viewers have time and expect to be dazzled; mobile web users want specific information quickly, and during the holidays they’re in a hurry, Duross says. Animation only slows down the process,” he says.

* Reduce reliance on third parties. Many retailers erroneously think third-party items, like analytics tracking tags, load last, after the content users first see; however, there is simply no guarantee when it comes to the order in which items load, Duross says. “The more non-user-facing content you force through via mobile, the longer consumers may have to wait for the content that sells products,” he says. “Pair this with the congestion networks will experience throughout the holidays, and you may find that an issue with a third party is directly impacting your customers or preventing your content from loading.”

* Reduce complex content containers, like image carousels. Simple, static content is best when trying to achieve peak performance, Duross says. “The more you introduce complex presentations, like rotating carousels or interactive elements, the slower and more unpredictable your page will load,” he says. “A masthead image that’s part of an interactive carousel can take five times longer to render than a single image. Mobile shoppers know what they want, so get out of their way.”

* Check render order, lighten, repeat. Mobile web pages rarely render in the order expected because of unpredictable mobile browser behavior and the inconsistent speed of wireless connections, Duross says. “If key visual content gets snagged on a slow connection thread, the mobile web browser can get preoccupied and render less important page items first,” he says. “Your only weapon against this is to keep the page as light as possible. When all you request from your browser is good content, it will more easily overcome any connection speed issues to render it.”

* Understand the business model. Understand what customers want from a mobile site, provide it, then get out of the way, Duross says. “If your primary goal is to sell on mobile, get users through product information and into the cart with minimal distraction,” he says. ”If your goal is to serve mobile users in stores, then get them product information better and faster than any competitor. Often a mobile user in a store is poised to buy if they can get clarity on just one or a couple product details. The selling is all but done, but it won’t happen if your mobile site is bogged down with tags and content for five other purposes aside from providing great information.”

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