February 26, 2014, 3:00 PM

A better mobile game plan pays off for Sports Authority

The sports equipment and apparel retailer scores five spots higher this week on Keynote’s 30-retailer index that measures the performance of mobile commerce sites.

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If the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index consisted of sports team rankings, one could say The Sports Authority played an especially good game last week. The retailer jumped five spots on the index for the week ending Feb. 23, moving from No. 11 a week earlier to No. 6 this past week.

The Sports Authority boosted performance in part by eliminating 10 elements on the mobile home page, says Venkatesh Giri, mobile and web performance evangelist for Keynote. The retailer’s mobile commerce site went from 30 elements for the week ending Feb. 16 to just 20 this past week, he says. This reduces the number of HTTP server requests to download the home page.

“Since the home page is lighter than before and requires fewer HTTP requests, we see a page load time improvement from 6.75 seconds to 5.42 seconds,” he says. “That’s over a full second taken off page load time, which is significant for online retailers. This performance optimization, combined with achieving 100% site availability, makes Sports Authority an interesting site to watch.” The combination of loading successfully in 100% of Keynote’s tests last week, a lighter home page and a faster load time resulted in an index score of 915 for Sports Authority. Keynote weights and then combines load time and site availability (also known as success rate) to achieve a score.

Sears Holdings Corp. topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Feb 23. Its average load time was 2.63 seconds and its success rate was 100% for a score of 981. Its mobile home page contains seven elements weighing 67 kilobytes. W.W. Grainger Inc. came in second with an average load time of 3.01 seconds and a success rate of 100% for a score of 970. Its mobile home page contains seven elements weighing 83 kilobytes.

Two of the 30 retailers on the index offer sites built with responsive web design techniques, sites that use a single code base, a single set of web content and responsive techniques to render versions of the site that fit the size of the screen on a device a consumer is using. This saves a retailer having to build separate sites for desktops, tablets, smartphones and other devices, and delivers content from a single URL, which tends to strengthen search engine rankings. Fab.com, one of those responsive sites, came in at No. 22 with a load time of 13.94 seconds and a success rate of 99.70% for a score of 475. Fathead.com LLC, the other responsive site, came in at No. 27 with a load time of 16.03 seconds and a success rate of 99.69% for a score of 351. The No. 1 complaint about responsive design sites is that they load slower than standalone sites because responsive sites transmit more data to mobile web browsers than standalone sites. However, responsive design is quickly evolving in ways that improve performance.

The average load time for all 30 retailers on the index was 7.12 seconds, the average success rate was 99.67% and the average score was 692.

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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