December 15, 2003, 12:00 AM

Online shopping experience lags as more consumers log on

Online holiday shopping has been an uneven experience so far, say researchers monitoring retail web site responsiveness, with problems ranging from slow responding web site functions to inability to complete a purchase.

Online holiday shopping has been an uneven experience so far for consumers, say researchers monitoring retail web site traffic and responsiveness. Last week, for instance, the average dial up user at 20 retail sites monitored by Gomez Inc. took 90 seconds to access a home page, search for an item, view the results, choose a product and place it in a shopping cart, Gomez says. “Overall response times are creeping up,” says John Lovett, senior performance analyst for Gomez. “It’s like going to the mall on a Saturday afternoon; you’re going to find long lines.”

Lovett says the problems arise primarily as customers engage retailers’ back-end systems. “Home pages and searches are processed in a fast amount of time,” he says. “Retail sites get tripped up when the customer puts things in a shopping cart and engages the site in more intricate taxes, like inventory checking.

Gomez has contacts with 10,000 computer users worldwide to allow Gomez to test web sites from each user`s computer whenever it is online. It pays the computer user a few cents per test. Its base includes computers accessing the Internet through dial-up as well as through low broadband access such as cable and high broadband access such as T1 lines. It measures the amount of time it takes to access the home page, input a search term into the search box (“fleece” for apparel retailers and “digital camera” for mass merchants), get the results, click on the first result and place into a shopping cart before abandoning the transaction. Low broadband users average 27 seconds and high broadband users, 13 seconds.

Keynote Systems also reported that its Keynote E-Commerce Transaction Performance Index dipped at times last week to as low as an 80% success rate, meaning consumers could complete only eight out of 10 transactions. The overall success rate for the week slipped to a six-week low as well, Keynote says, coming in at 93.68%. Keynote defines a transaction as the web site`s ability to allow a consumer to click through a number of pages and successfully make a purchase.

The average success rate for the four weeks before last week was 94.49% to 96.68%. Keynote measures traffic to 13 retail sites.


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