November 20, 2013, 2:48 PM

An e-commerce powerhouse falters in mobile performance

Errors are at the root of Amazon.com’s slipping ranking in this week’s Keynote Index.

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Amazon.com Inc. may be the largest online retailer in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean the e-retail powerhouse has a fast-loading mobile site.

The retailer dropped eight places in the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Nov. 17. A close look at the m-commerce home page for the online retailing behemoth by web performance management firm Keynote finds that the time it took to load Amazon’s mobile home page increased by 1.48 seconds on average for the week compared to a week earlier.

The reason is not a heavy page with many new elements such as images, links and text, says Venkatesh Giri, mobile performance expert at Keynote. In fact, the mobile site barely changed in respect to page size and number of elements. The culprit for the increased response time is content errors, Giri says. Specifically, Giri says, the mobile site called the server looking for elements that were not there, he says.

“From Nov. 10 to Nov. 12 we see content errors caused by a call to a JavaScript—mraid.js which was simply absent on the server, resulting in a HTTP 404 error or page not found,” Giri says. Mriad is an application programming interface or API for rich media ads running in mobile applications. It provides banner ads with a standard way to expand and collapse in a mobile environment.

The average time it took to load Amazon.com’s mobile home page was a lengthy 9.35 seconds on average for the week ending Nov. 17, resulting in the retailer falling from No. 10 in last week’s index to No. 18 in the current rankings.

Amazon did not immediately respond for a request to comment on its mobile site performance.

Sears Holdings Corp. topped the Keynote index with a load time of 4.00 seconds and a success rate of 99.89% for a score of 961; its mobile home page contains seven page elements and weighs 87 kilobytes. Rakuten Shopping came in second with a load time of 4.10 seconds and a success rate of 99.78% for a score of 950; its mobile home page contains 10 page elements and weighs 75 kilobytes. And Toolfetch LLC came in third with a load time of 3.20 seconds and a success rate of 99.55% for a score of 937; its mobile home page contains seven elements and weighs 59 kilobytes.

Amazon.com Inc. is No. 2 in the recently published 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, Sears Holdings Corp. No. 30, Rakuten Shopping No. 28 and Toolfetch LLC No. 352.

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 five seconds.

While 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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