October 19, 2010, 1:34 PM

David beats Goliaths in mobile site performance, index shows

Toolfetch.com keeps its home page design simple and its code clean.

Toolfetch.com LLC is a smaller retailer that’s competing head to head with major players like Best Buy Co. and Sears Holdings Corp. in the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index, and it has been regularly beating some of the giants’ m-commerce site performance.

How does David slay Goliath? For one thing, it keeps its home page simple by design. Where Best Buy, for example, has, among other things, rotating hero shots, Toolfetch.com presents simply a site search box and an array of category links for browsing. Going with a less graphical approach typically leads to better performance, which is key in the mobile sphere because mobile users are not terribly patient.

“Our customers want the best overall shopping experience on their phones, especially fast-loading pages and accurate search results,” says Andrew Brown, co-founder and CEO of Toolfetch.com, No. 441 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. He says that keeping the home page focus on categories, shortening mobile page URLs, and maintaining mobile site coding that is up to date and “sanitized” helps its m-commerce site load fast and successfully.

For the week beginning Oct. 11, Toolfetch.com came in fourth place on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index with a score of 880 out of 1,000. Its m-commerce site home page downloaded on average in 3.99 seconds and did so successfully 98.16% of the time.

Walmart.com again came in first place with a score of 985 out of 1,000; its m-commerce site home page loaded on average in 3.38 seconds and did so successfully 98.86% of the time. Barnes & Noble achieved a score of 928 to come in second; its mobile home page load time was 4.67 seconds with a success rate of 98.76%.

StrandBooks.com hit third place at 927, with a load time of 2.93 seconds and a success rate of 98.25%. And Best Buy came in fifth at 827, with a load time of 6.51 seconds and a success rate of 98.44%. Click here and select Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index to see complete results for all of the index’s 14 merchants for the week beginning Oct 11.

The average score for the index of 14 mobile merchants was 766, up 10 points from last week. The average m-commerce home page load time was 5.69 seconds and the success rate was 97.69%.

Keynote Systems measures the 14 representative m-commerce sites for Internet Retailer. The sites include merchants in various categories and channels, and of various sizes, ranging from such giants as Sears and Foot Locker Inc. to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut and K&L Wine Merchants.

While some retailers’ positions in the index this week did not change, their performance did. Sears, for example, did quite well on close inspection.

“While Sears’ mobile site ranking did not officially change from last week to this week, when examining the data more closely, we find that their site’s performance improved significantly under the covers. The average load time for the Sears mobile site improved by 0.73 seconds, or 9.66%, and the success rate is 2% higher compared to the previous week,” says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote Systems. “At first glance, while these changes might not sound huge, because m-commerce is such a highly competitive vertical, even seemingly minute improvements in download performance and percentage changes in reliability can create a significantly better overall user experience. Keynote’s mobile data also showed that the Sears mobile web site quality improved. Their site had 39% less web server-specific errors compared to the previous week.”

Keynote repeatedly tests the sites in the index Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating three different smartphones on three different wireless networks: the iPhone on AT&T, the BlackBerry Curve on Sprint and the Droid (which uses the Android operating system) on Verizon. Keynote combines a site’s load time and success rate, equally weighted, into a single score. Given 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’s average score is the midpoint among all the sites’ scores.

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