Richard WheatonRichard WheatonJune 3, 2020
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9min959

The rise of mobile as a primary tool for shopping is an inexorable trend – indeed, it is projected that mCommerce will double from 2019–2023 (Eamarketer), ultimately accounting for three-quarters of total e-commerce.

In this new ‘mobile-first’ world, speed is perhaps the most important criteria for good customer experience. Yet, too many brands have been slow to adapt to this new reality. Despite offering a great experience in other ways, they haven’t viewed speed as a KPI that will positively impact business performance and ROI.

We know instinctively as consumers that mobile digital experiences that are responsive and tailored to our needs have a direct impact on the brands we choose to interact with. Research from Salesforce reveals that 83 percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

Additionally according to a study by Forrester 70 percent of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.

To investigate these broad assumptions, Google commissioned Fifty-five and Deloitte Digital to embark on the most comprehensive site speed study to date, ‘Milliseconds makes Millions’, that for the first time quantifies the impact of speed on four specific metrics conversion rate, bounce rate, page views per session and average order value.

Surprisingly a study across a range of brands with similar buying intent had not previously been published, presumably due to the challenges of accessing a sufficient quantity of comparable data across several sites to generate statistically robust findings.

Milliseconds make millions

Over a four week period, we analysed mobile site data from 37 retail, travel, luxury and lead generation brands across Europe and the US. It was based on 30 million unique user sessions. Even a small improvement to mobile speed can have a positive effect on business results for brands.

One of the challenges in discussing site speed is that the range of terminology, metrics and dimensions can be confusing for busy executives and digital managers to digest and use to make decisions.

Fifty-five’s goal was to unearth some golden nuggets of insight to make sure that progress can be achieved swiftly. Fifty-five monitored over 30 individual metrics, and reduced them down to a concentrated list that has the most measurable impact on commercial performance. The four specific site speed metrics referred to below are, to give them their technical names, Max Server Latency, First Meaningful Paint, Estimated Input Latency, and Observed Load. These metrics, according to the data, provide some indication of the most valuable areas to investigate.

Our analysis shows that a mere 0.1s change in load time in these four key metrics along the user journey dramatically increases conversion rates. In the retail sites, conversions grew by 8 percent, and in travel by 10 percent on average. With a 0.1s improvement in site speed, we observed that retail consumers spent almost 10 percent more, while lead generation and luxury consumers engaged more, with page views increasing by 7 percent and 8 percent respectively.

The conclusion is abundantly clear. There is a great opportunity to increase sales by making your mobile pages more responsive. And conversely, brands that aren’t focused on speeding up page downloads could be missing out in millions of lost revenue.

The study reveals clear evidence that site speed improvements have a measurable impact on customer engagement, conversions and ultimately a brand’s bottom line.

Adopting a mobile-first mindset

So how should brands react? There is a clear need to make site speed a priority across the organisation by introducing it as a KPI.

They need to introduce the right processes and allocate resources to constantly monitor and optimise their site speed. And we’ve identified seven key steps brands should take to meet the challenge of delivering a truly speed-centric customer experience. These are:

1. Understand the speed status

In order to choose where and how to invest in speed, brands need to know how their site is currently performing. This is both in a stand-alone context and also in comparison to your competitors. Tools such as Google Test My Site enables brands to understand, measure and benchmark your mobile site speed. The Lighthouse is another useful tool which allows you to understand your site speed in the context of different devices.

2. Be clear on the potential impact of mobile site speed on the bottom line

Being equipped with this data will help quantify the impact that site speed changes have on your customer flow, to help you prove the validity of considering speed as a primary performance metric and, ultimately, sell more.

3. Adopt a mobile-first strategy

Mobile-first is essentially a design strategy, more appropriate for satisfying today’s consumers than a purely responsive approach. The mobile-first approach considers mobile users’ needs first and foremost, and its best-practices natively consider site speed and responsiveness as crucial elements of the user experience.

4. Identify speed as one of the primary performance metrics

It’s essential to build consensus to make speed a priority KPI and performance metric. Site owners, designers, strategists, developers and suppliers need to keep speed top of mind when undertaking any mobile site improvements or overhauls.

5. Introduce page speed budget to project teams and clients

Page speed budget or web performance budget is a set of constraints that project teams can use to ensure the mobile site meets performance standards and loads quickly across devices and platforms. It’s easy for a website to grow in size with new functionalities, content and design items but it’s essential to understand the impact on customer time and bandwidth.

Performance, especially speed, should never be compromised for an aesthetic or functional site addition. By introducing a speed budget, the impact of each site amendment or update can be assessed to understand the positive or negative consequence. Anything that does have a negative consequence should be reconsidered.

6. Use the right tools in the right way

All of the above assumes you have the means to report on the status and the effect of site speed at the right level of granularity. It is crucial to use the right tools for both measurement and reporting. Your analytics package needs to be set up correctly, with a strong focus on conversion point, funnels and appropriate KPIs.

7. Create the right culture with the right people

Data & good visualisation need to be embedded within the organisation to establish a performance-centric culture for decision-making. Then, people throughout the business – leadership, strategists, developers, designers, content practitioners and project managers – will have better insights into what is at stake when making decisions around site decisions, and speed will then become a priority metric.

By following this plan brands can ensure that customer experience is being led by the key priority of the end user. Investing in speed is the best route to delivering a truly first-class customer experience.


Richard WheatonRichard WheatonAugust 1, 2019
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9min2478

Businesses in the UK today are very focused on bringing digital tools and tech into the heart of their processes.

You are a brave Marketing or Operations Director if you say that digital transformation is not at the heart of your 12, 24, or 36 month plan.

The benefits of embracing digital are observed everywhere: customers want to browse your products online, buy them online, find your store online, have their questions answered through prompt emails and chatbots, have their returns handled online, and so on.

And there’s plenty of tech vendors selling the dream – tech that enables and automates these processes – helping you to target customers with messages and offers tailored to their needs without any messy set-up requirements, easy to operate, cheaper-faster-better, and pain-free.

Sounds familiar…yet very rarely turns out like that, right? This is because you have to build your digital tech around the way your organisation works, not the other way around.

Less is more with technology, the focus is the customer journey

The reasons for disappointment in digital transformation projects are numerous, but at its core the problem tends to be the same – if you get to the stage where your people are supporting your tech instead of the other way around, you’re in trouble.

Many of our clients ask us for advice on their digital tools and data architecture and are frustrated that they have not obtained the benefits expected from their choice of Data Management Platform, or email service provider, or analytics package. Most often, the problem is not the tech, but the way that the tech has been configured (or not configured), compounded by the fact that the client has set up the tool in isolation from the other tools in their infrastructure. Buying new tools to replace and improve upon the tools’ already there is not the solution!

The solution comes from forensically focusing on identifying exactly what it is that the client needs to execute and configuring the tech for every use case. For large companies, this can require hundreds of use cases and data sets, and that can sound daunting. But that’s what’s required, for many reasons.

One specifically being it’s the law. GDPR requires all companies that hold customer data to have documented processes for the management and deployment of each customer interaction, by channel. To be compliant businesses need to painstakingly deconstruct and document the way they obtain, store, process and deploy their data in each use case anyway.

Law: GDPR compliance can be daunting for many firms

Another reason is that, whatever the martech salespeople say, the tools do not “seamlessly and automatically interface with your other tools”, or whatever other blasé statement they make to smooth the sale.

This type of mis-selling almost led to a disaster for an international client of ours embarking on a multi-million pound marketing transformation project. As we were specifying the solution, including tools and processes, our new client told us that one of the tools at the centre of their new process was being taken out of the scope, because they had been assured by the vendor that their tool would “set all the taxonomies for the data, and if anything changed, the tool would automatically ripple through all of the changes to the taxonomy…so we don’t think we need help with that”.

Fortunately, we had the experience with the tool and the communication skills to convince the client otherwise – the tool did none of those things and had no automated interface with the large number of data sources in the project. For the client, it was a near-miss; if we had accepted the claim of the vendor that the data would be set up and reconfigured automatically, the project would have been yet another digital white elephant, with everyone scratching their heads, asking what had gone wrong.

Businesses must re-think coordination and collaboration

The final ‘problem’ causing implementations to not go as planned is people. I like to say that any transformation project involves 30 percent of the work getting the tech set up right, and 70 percent “getting people to do things differently”. I’m not advocating that people’s processes and ways of working need to be radically reconfigured.  The tools we use for digital marketing are not hard to use, and correctly configured, they should require little reskilling.

The core change that businesses need to make is around coordination: which means, getting people within and across teams to collaborate better, so that the business has a coordinated response to each customer interaction, rather than each team operating in its silo, sending emails, banners or coupons to solve each customer problem in isolation, because it is the only tool they have been given.

The key to success in deploying tools is for the business to be clear on the role for that tool and have a clear plan for how the data used by it will flow to and from other tools in the stack. You can be sure that you will be using different tools in a year’s time, so the instinct to make a decision that you can lock in for years to come is misguided.

You need a set of tools that remains flexible and focused on the tasks required, or you’ll soon find your infrastructure is out of date and not able to give your people the best available capabilities for serving customers. Tools should be just that – tools to do a job.

They should not define the job.




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