February 11, 2014, 4:23 PM

HSN soars nine spots in the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index

The retailer’s m-commerce site availability improves in the index for the week ending Feb. 9, helping the retailer move from No. 13 to No. 4 in the index of 30 mobile commerce sites.

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Being available has its perks. At least, that is, when it comes to mobile site performance. HSN Inc.’s mobile site climbed nine spots in the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Feb. 9 to move into fourth place in the index of 30 mobile e-retailers. Much of the improvement had to do with what the index calls availability, which refers to the mobile home page rendering properly.

"In this week's mobile commerce index results, a big winner was HSN,” says Ken Harker, senior consultant at Keynote. In the index for the week ending Feb. 2, Harker says HSN’s mobile site suffered inconsistent availability and occasional time-out errors—which is when a web page fails to load completely. HSN typically requires two redirections to get to the mobile site when a consumer types in the desktop site URL, Harker says. All of the time-outs the previous week happened on one of the two redirections, he says. This week those redirects, which require a call to the server, did not product any time-outs, leading HSN to load its mobile home page successfully 100% of the time in Keynote’s tests.

Still, Harker cautions that redirections add an extra layer of complexity to a mobile web page and can lead to more opportunities for errors and performance slowdowns. “Although HSN's availability improved this week, those redirections remain in the page design and could be an issue again in the future,” Harker says. To maximize mobile performance retailers should limit their redirects, he says.

HSN did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its mobile site performance.

Toolfetch.com topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Feb 9. Its load time was 2.37 seconds and its success rate was 99.67% for a score of 968. Its mobile home page contains seven elements weighing 63 kilobytes. Sears Holdings Corp. came in second with a load time of 2.66 seconds and a success rate of 99.38% for a score of 954. Its mobile home page contains seven elements weighing 62 kilobytes.

Two of the 30 retailers on the index offer responsive web design sites, which use a single code base and responsive techniques to adapt to the size of the device the consumer is using. This saves a retailer having to build separate sites for desktops, tablets, smartphones and other devices. Fab.com, one of those responsive sites, came in at No. 22 with a load time of 11.44 seconds and a success rate of 99.82% for a score of 703. Fathead.com LLC, the other responsive site, came in at No. 29 with a load time of 17.33 seconds and a success rate of 99.12% for a score of 454.

The average load time for all 30 retailers was 7.68 seconds, the average success rate was 99.07% and the average score was 766.

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, 30 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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