October 31, 2013, 12:27 PM

L.L. Bean masters mobile imagery, leading to quicker page loads

Cutting a whopping 10 seconds from load time is a huge achievement, Keynote says.

Amy Dusto

Associate Editor

Lead Photo

A screenshot of L.L. Bean's mobile site in October.

Photos are central to selling products online, regardless of whether a shopper is on a desktop PC, a tablet or a smartphone. But the weight of a photo in kilobytes doesn’t really matter much to a shopper on a PC with a broadband Internet connection or on a tablet with a Wi-Fi web link. Those are fast networks that load web pages very quickly.

But size sure does matter on smartphones with 4G or 3G web connections, as wireless carrier networks are slower than other networks and often unpredictable. For page loads on these connections, the lower the page weight in kilobytes, the quicker the load time. This is important as retailers do not want shoppers on smartphones waiting forever for a page to load; mobile shoppers are quite likely to abandon very slow mobile commerce sites, mobile and web performance management firm Keynote says.

Two weeks ago, average page weights on the mobile commerce web site of L.L. Bean Inc. were more than 1 megabyte; some pages were loading more than 2 megabytes of content, which is monstrous in the mobile realm, Keynote says. For the week ending Oct. 27, the average page weight on L.L. Bean’s m-commerce site was slashed down to 500 kilobytes, according to Keynote analysis for the weekly Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index. Subsequently, the retailer’s m-commerce site home page average load time was 10.38 seconds, down from a whopping 20.95 seconds the week prior, Keynote says.

“L.L. Bean achieved this big improvement through better image file management,” says Ken Harker, mobile performance expert at Keynote. “Images used on the home page to feature current promotions were each often 600 kilobytes or heavier two weeks prior. Now, those images are mostly lighter than 100 kilobytes, and the performance improvement for the site visitor is noticeable. L.L. Bean has demonstrated improved discipline in basic mobile page design.”

Managing images is critical on mobile—finding the right balance between rich content and quick, efficient content is key for retailers that seek to capture and retain mobile shoppers’ interest and purchasing power, Harker adds.

L.L. Bean did not respond to a request for comment.

Toolfetch.com LLC topped the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index for the week ending Oct. 27, with an average m-commerce site home page load time of 3.33 seconds and a success rate (also known as site availability) of 99.79%. Weighting and then combining the load time and success rate earns Toolfetch.com a perfect index score of 1,000. Sears Holdings Corp. came in second with a load time of 3.82 seconds and a success rate of 99.15% for a score of 897. And Rakuten.com Shopping came in third with a load time of 4.25 seconds and a success rate of 98.90% for a score of 835.

The average load time for all 30 retailers on the index was 8.33 seconds, the average success rate was 98.74% and the average score was 690.

L.L. Bean is No. 74 in the newly published2014 Internet Retailer Mobile 500, Toolfetch.com is No. 352, Sears is No. 30 and Rakuten.com Shopping is No. 28.

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 30 representative m-commerce sites exclusively for Internet Retailer. The 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 LLC. Keynote tests the sites in the index every hour Monday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. through midnight Eastern time, 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.

Keynote combines a site’s load time and success rate, equally weighted, into a single score. Given that 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. To consistently rank high on the Keynote index, sites must hit availability targets of 99.5% or better and be faster than 10 seconds to load on average. Top-performing sites load in under five seconds.

While 4G adoption among U.S. consumers has been steadily rising, only a fraction of all U.S. wireless connections are 4G. Consequently, retailers benchmarking their mobile commerce site performance against the Keynote index should keep in mind that most of their m-commerce site shoppers will experience page load times slower than those on the index.

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