January 30, 2014, 10:59 AM

GameStop chooses razzle-dazzle over speed

The chain retailer's corpulent m-commerce site home page is filled with features and looks great, but takes more than 13 seconds to load, far too long for restive smartphone shoppers, Keynote says. Sears' mobile home page loads in less than three seconds.

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Though slow to load, the chain retailer's m-commerce site home page is available 99.57% of the time, Keynote says.

Big buttons, rotating hero images, daily deals and 15 product images. Those are just some of the elements on the very long mobile commerce site home page of GameStop. The page is both phat and fat: The design is rich and impressive, but it weighs quite a few kilobytes.

All told, the chain retailer's mobile home page includes 77 page elements (such as images and scripts) that combined weigh 846 kilobytes, which in the mobile realm is massive, says mobile and web performance testing, monitoring and analytics firm Keynote. The firm advises retailers wanting optimal performance to limit mobile page elements to 10 or 12 and limit page weight to 100 kilobytes or less.

GameStop's 846 kilobytes result in a mobile page that takes 13.62 seconds to load, according to the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Jan. 26. The index is exclusive to Internet Retailer. By comparison, the fastest m-commerce site home page on the index, belonging to Sears Holdings Corp., loads in a mere 2.86 seconds. Keynote says retailers should optimize their mobile site pages so they take no more than five to eight seconds to load.

"13 seconds is poor performance," says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote. "There’s usually a performance impact when a mobile site chooses to be heavier and display a large number of elements, but that’s a tradeoff many retailers consciously make. In the case of mobile sites like GameStop, though, the merchant can still improve performance by combining JavaScripts and keeping the JavaScript at the bottom of a page so it does not hold up other, visible elements from being loaded."

Further, GameStop could cache more static objects, ones that are used again and again on multiple pages, so they are only loaded from the server to the client web browser once, thus reducing subsequent page load times, Ng adds.

Keynote weighted and combined GameStop's 13.62-second load time with its site availability (also known as success rate) of an impressive 99.57%, which resulted in the merchant's index score of 444 out of 1,000, placing it at No. 24 on the 30-retailer index.

GameStop, No. 110 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sears topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Jan. 26. Its load time was 2.86 seconds and its success rate was 99.45% for a score of 892. Its mobile home page contains 7 elements weighing 62 kilobytes. Rakuten.com Shopping came in second with a load time of 3.89 seconds and a success rate of 99.58% for a score of 870. Its mobile home page contains 13 elements weighing 165 kilobytes. And HSN Inc. came in third with a load time of 6.08 seconds and a success rate of 99.72% for a score of 825.

Two of the 30 retailers on the index offer responsive web design sites, which use a single code base and responsive techniques to render a single site to custom fit the screen of any device. This saves a retailer having to build separate sites for desktops, tablets and smartphones. Fab.com came in at No. 9 with a load time of 9.09 seconds and a success rate of 99.86% for a score of 771. Fathead.com LLC came in at No. 21 with a load time of 15.93 seconds and a success rate of 99.53% for a score of 508.

The average load time for all 30 retailers was 7.99 seconds, the average success rate was 99.00% and the average score was 622.

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, exclusively for Internet Retailer, 28 standalone m-commerce sites optimized for smartphones and two responsive design sites, which are single sites that render content in ways that fit the screen size of a device, including desktop PCs, tablets, smartphones and smart TVs. For the index, Keynote measures the smartphone versions of the responsive sites.

The 30 representative 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 EDT, 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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