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"While load testing with virtual users provides a baseline of performance, it does not provide a full picture of the web site's health, which is why testing with real user browser loads is also needed," says Loveless. "These two types of testing complement each other and provide a necessary high-fidelity understanding of web site performance capacity."
The mobile challenge
Despite mobile browsers being slower than desktop browsers and wireless networks often being slowed by heavy traffic, mobile users expect site performance to be as good—if not better—than what they experience on their desktop computers, according to Equation Research. Add in that they typically are on the go, and mobile shoppers can be even less patient than desktop users when it comes to load times.
To improve the speed of their web sites for mobile devices, retailers have responded with mobile-specific sites that feature leaner content. While reduced content speeds the sites up, the approach denies mobile shoppers much of the visually rich content they crave, which may limit the amount of sales the channel can generate.
With its web application page-streaming technology, Instart Logic allows retailers to quickly deliver rich content to mobile devices.
"Spontaneity plays a role in many mobile purchases, so web application streaming is geared to enable that quick decision to be acted upon, without sacrificing the richness of the shopping experience," Blum says. "The real power of our technology lies in the new types of web experiences retailers can now create."
While most performance problems tend to result from operating issues that retailers can ultimately control, one performance problem over which they have little control is a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). Intended to render a web site inaccessible by overloading the site server with traffic, DDoS attacks can randomly occur and go undetected for hours.
"Our research with over 200 companies showed that it takes 5 hours for companies to know they are under attack and another 4.5 hours to start to do something about it. Usually by this time, the problem is full blown and the retailer's site has slowed to a crawl," says Loveless.
In addition to providing DDoS detection services, Neustar helps retailers repel DDoS attacks by rerouting a retailer's web site traffic to its servers, where malicious traffic is identified and blocked, while legitimate traffic is routed to the retailer's web server.
There are many technologies that can improve site performance. It's up to retailers to recognize how much performance impacts profits.
"Customer engagement, bounce rates, cart abandonment, conversions all impact retailers revenue and they all tie back into site performance," Blum says. "With mobile users the fastest-growing buying segment, retailers need to measure the effectiveness of their web performance technologies, because faster web interaction is directly correlated to increased revenue."
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