September 1, 2006, 12:00 AM

Retail site performance getting worse, not better

In a surprise finding, the number of e-commerce sites that don`t adeptly handle customer load and dial-up access to keep site outages to a minimum is increasing, Keynote Systems says in its annual study of site performance.

The number of e-commerce sites that do not adeptly handle customer load and dial-up access and keep outages to a minimum is growing, not shrinking, according to the findings of Keynote Systems Inc.’s annual study of retail web site performance.

Compared with last year, more e-commerce sites are having difficulty handling heavy customer loads, says Ben Rushlo, director of professional services at Keynote. “These tests were done in the summer, not the holidays,” he says. “So the question is, Will they be ready come November when customer loads are four or five times greater than those in the summer?”

Additionally, the total amount of downtime caused by outages-the inability to access a page, conduct a search, complete a transaction, etc.-increased. “This translates into consumer frustration,” Rushlo says.

The 28 e-commerce sites tested by Keynote Systems, an Internet performance measurement firm that sells research data and technology, all rank among the Top 100 of the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites, the firm says. It conducted the tests between May 19 and June 15.

‘Old school’

News is not good in another performance area: dial-up access. “Dial-up users can forget about good performance,” Rushlo says. “The number of dial-up users continues to shrink, but it’s at 30%, which is a significant number of folks. We found average dial-up page download times around 45 seconds, and that can get arduous.”

Overall, while some performance indicators are skewing poor, Keynote researchers say it’s difficult to extrapolate the findings to the entire industry. “This does not bode poorly for all of e-retailing,” Rushlo says, “there simply are many sites that will be negatively impacted during the holiday season.”


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