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.