June 29, 2011, 12:47 PM

Retailers seeking great performance can be at the mercy of wireless networks

The performance of carriers is slowing the performance of mobile sites, index finds.

Lead Photo

The retailer's m-commerce site home page downloaded on average in 6.22 seconds.

Four weeks ago the average m-commerce site home page download time for the 30 retailers on the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index was 8.81 seconds. Since then the average load time has slowed, hitting 9.65 seconds last week. It may not seem like much, but every second counts with the typical mobile consumer who wants to get to what he’s looking for fast.

Mobile and web performance management firm Keynote Systems Inc. dug into the index data and discovered that the slowdown was in part caused by poorer performance of the four major wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

“We took a closer look to determine if the slower performance was specific to any one network, and it turns out the index was slower over all four carrier networks to varying degrees,” says Herman Ng, mobile performance evangelist at Keynote Systems. “Comparing last week’s index average to four weeks ago, the data shows the index was particularly slower on two carriers. The average page load time decreased by 17.23% over the Sprint network and 21.67% over the T-Mobile network, while it decreased by 2.38% over the Verizon network and 4.15% over the AT&T network. It’s certainly not unusual observing performance fluctuations over a wireless carrier network, but it will be interesting to see if this trend continues or if this is simply a temporary network condition.”

To combat this type of problem, retailers can reduce the total number of kilobytes of a mobile web page (the page weight) or reduce the number of objects on a page (objects such as images or boxes of text), Ng says. But some retailers may already be slim and trim, and as a result, there is nothing more they can do—they’re at the mercy of the wireless carriers, he adds.

The current index average load time of 9.65 seconds combined with an average page download success rate of 98.13% resulted in a score of 704 out of 1,000, down 8 points from the previous week.

Walgreen Co. topped the index last week with a load time of 6.22 seconds and a success rate of 99.15% for a score of 951. Amazon.com Inc. came in second with a load time of 6.64 seconds and a success rate of 99.27% for a score of 944. And Lowe’s Cos. Inc. tied for second with a load time of 6.62 seconds and a success rate of 99.27% for a score of 944.

Click here and then click on Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index Part 1 and Part 2 to see this week’s complete results for all 30 retailers on the index.

Keynote Systems measures 30 representative m-commerce sites exclusively for Internet Retailer. The sites include merchants in various categories and channels, and of various sizes, ranging from such giants as Amazon.com Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., to midsized retailers like Sunglass Hut, Toolfetch.com LLC and Your Electronic Warehouse. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, emulating four different smartphones on four different wireless networks: Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4 on AT&T, the HTC Evo on Sprint, the BlackBerry Curve on T-Mobile and the Droid X on Verizon. The HTC Evo and the Droid X run Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

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 average score is the midpoint among all the sites’ scores.

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