March 27, 2014, 3:48 PM

Perfect mobile page loads save Best Buy

What the electronics chain loses in mobile speed it makes up for with page load perfection in the latest Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index.

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If Best Buy Co Inc.’s mobile site were a student it would get a perfect score on a test, if it were given enough time to complete it. The retailer’s mobile site loaded in a lethargic 7.54 seconds on average for the week ending March 23, according to the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index. However, it compensated for the lengthy load times with perfect availability. The retailer’s mobile site loaded correctly, if eventually, 100% of the time in smartphone load tests performed by Keynote that week. The perfect availability helped Best Buy nab a spot in the top five of 30 retailers on the mobile index—No. 5—to be exact. Typically, to rank that high a mobile site needs to load in less than five seconds. 

“Best Buy held fifth position, overcoming some page growth and increased load time with a perfect availability score,” says Keynote’s web and performance expert Joe Flake.

Best Buy added 15 elements for a total of 48 elements this past week. Those additions  contributed to a 220-kilobyte increase in home page weight for the week ending March 23. That, Flake says, added a little more than a second to its page load time.

“The page size jumped on March 15, but the element count change and some performance hit came in on March 20,” Flake says. An element can be a range of features on a site from a new image to rich media such as a scrolling home page banner. “The higher bandwidth of newer 4G connections absorbed the extra bytes downloaded without significant load time change, but the element change made a difference. The element count change affected both Android and iPhone devices, and includes a number of new tracking and analytic elements, but these elements only appeared from the San Francisco agent.”

This, Flake says, highlights that just as sites can make a distinction between traditional desktop and mobile content, they can be even more selective in delivering content targeted to specific regions. This points out the importance of testing, coding and monitoring mobile performance not just across different mobile devices but also by location. In this case it seems as though Best Buy added more tracking elements to its mobile site for shoppers accessing it in the San Francisco region.

Best Buy did not immediately respond to a request to comment on its mobile site performance.

For the week ending March 23, Sears Holdings Corp. topped the index with a load time of a swift 2.36 seconds and a success rate of 99.83% for a score of 919. Its mobile home page contains only seven page elements that weigh 65 kilobytes. Keynote advises retailers wanting optimal performance to limit mobile page elements to 10 or 12 and limit page weight to 100 kilobytes or less.  W.W. Grainger Inc. came in second with a load time of 2.65 seconds and a success rate of 99.83% for a score of 913. Its mobile home page contains eight page elements that weigh 82 kilobytes.

The average load time for all 30 retailers on the index was 8.13 seconds, the average success rate was 99.61% and the average score was 622. The average mobile home page contained 42 page elements and weighed 478 kilobytes.

Two of the 30 retailers on the index offer responsive design sites, which use a single code base, a single set of web content and responsive techniques so that the site’s layout changes to fit the size of the screen of the 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. But the chief complaint about responsive design sites is slow load times, and that is the case with the two responsive sites on the Keynote index.

The responsive design site of Fab.com came in at No. 21 on the index with a load time of a whopping 17.58 seconds and a success rate of 100% for a score of 500. Its home page for smartphones contains 74 page elements and weighs an unwieldy 2121 kilobytes. Fathead.com came in at No. 19 with a load time of 16.75 seconds and a success rate of 100% seconds for a score of 544. Its home page for smartphones contains 106 page elements and weighs 2128 kilobytes.

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. 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.

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