January 31, 2014, 4:30 PM

Banana Republic jumps 37 places in the Evidon web site performance index

The retailer and eight others, including Target and Neiman Marcus, move up into the top 30 fastest-loading web sites of more than 70 e-retail sites.

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Nine retailers bumped up into the group of 30 with the fastest-loading web pages in the week of Jan. 14-20, as tracked by digital marketing analytics and privacy technology firm Evidon Inc. exclusively for Internet Retailer. Of them, BananaRepublic.com made the biggest move, jumping 37 places to spot No. 19 from No. 56 last week.

The nine new additions to the top 30 this week, with their ranks in the index for the week ending Jan. 20 followed by their ranks in the previous week and the change, were:

  • Cabelas, 13, 32 (up 19)
  • Avon, 18, 33 (up 15)
  • Banana Republic, 19, 56 (up 37)
  • Target, 22, 41 (up 19)
  • Amazon U.K., 21, 45 (up 24)
  • Amazon.com, 24, 42 (up 18)
  • HP Home, 27, 46 (up 19)
  • Walgreens, 28, 37 (up 9)
  • Neiman Marcus, 30, 40 (up 10)

In most cases, the retailers were able to shave time off their page loads by reducing the number of third-party trackers—small pieces of software that measure clicks and impressions for advertisers or vendors—on their e-commerce sites. If trackers load slowly or with errors, they can make the whole page slow down.

Target Corp., for example, cut 37 third-party tracking tags from its home page since the previous index, which lowered its average page load time from 2.42 seconds to 2.22 seconds. “Target has been very forward-thinking in evaluating these kinds of metrics and their increase in performance is likely due to new strategies based on their analysis,” says Andy Kahl, director of data analysis at Evidon.

Target declined to comment.

The average number of trackers on retailers’ sites in the index was 86, down from 149 last week. The average page loading time was 3.02 seconds, down from 3.69 seconds last week.

The amount of content and tracking code loading on a web page isn’t the only factor in a web site’s page load time. Banana Republic, with the biggest week-over-week move up the index, is a case in point—the retailer cut just six trackers from its home page in that time, none of which was causing any significant slowdowns to begin with, Kahl says. “I’m not sure what should get the credit for [Banana Republic’s] jump in performance,” he says. “As a popular retailer, they might have been struggling to keep up with increased traffic during the holiday season.” That suggests the uptick in performance could be a result of site traffic getting back to normal. More site visitors can lead to slower page load times for retailers that haven’t allotted extra server space to handle the influx of data queries from consumers’ computers and mobile devices.

Gap, parent company of Banana Republic, did not immediately respond to a request for comments.

The 30 fastest-loading sites in the index, with their average page load times and number of trackers, are:

Evidon Inc. tracks for Internet Retailer the average page load times of the web sites of the Top 50 retailers in the Top 500 Guide. As several of these retailers have several web sites—for example Gap also operates sites for brands like Old Navy and Banana Republic—the total number of sites tracked is 72. Evidon also tracks the number of third-party trackers deployed on each page and the average latency they cause in its load time. The data come from roughly 10 million consumers who use Evidon’s Ghostery tool, a browser add-on that tells them which companies are tracking their online activity and for what purpose, and who have opted to participate in an anonymous panel to provide data about their site visits to Evidon.

The panel includes residents of more than 50 countries and users of every major browser—Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Opera and Safari, and Internet Explorer—with just under 5% of the data coming from two mobile platforms: Firefox users on the Android operating system and users of Evidon’s Ghostery browser on the Apple operating system. Evidon collects the data hourly. Evidon averages the data for each web site over one week to provide periodic updates for Internet Retailer.

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