ImageThe holiday season is fast approaching, which for many businesses is a critical time of year to boost sales and profitability. There are a lot of factors business owners consider as the holiday season approaches, such as how to target different types of shoppers and what types of discounts to offer. However, all of those efforts could be in vain if your website and mobile app aren’t up to par, and latency starts turning your customers away. Why is latency such a big deal and how does it affect your bottom line? Read on for the facts.

Consumer Attention is at an All-time Low

Today’s consumer is inundated with ads and promotions from hundreds of retailers trying to get their attention. With so many distractions and options, retailers that fail to offer what the consumer is looking for in a timely manner will be passed over for a retailer who better understands the need of the consumer and able to meet those needs more quickly. In a report by IBM, it was found that over a twelve-month period from 2012 to 2013, the amount of time a customer will spend on a site has sunk to an all-time low. In addition, bounce rate peaked at 39.2 percent in January of this year.

How Latency Affects the Bottom Line

With consumers so prone to leave a site immediately it is crucial to ensure that the online experience is built for the fast moving customer and that latency doesn’t drive the consumer away. Just how low does latency need to be? A study in 2012 found 50 percent of users will abandon a page if it doesn't load within 10 seconds. For e-commerce sites, expectations are even higher with 40 percent of shoppers abandoning the e-commerce site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. Perhaps the most concerning statistic is that 60 percent of users who abandon a page due to poor performance don’t return to the site later.

These numbers should be concerning to every online business owner, as it means many businesses are losing sales for no other reason than their site failed to load quickly enough.

The Special Case of Mobile

One of the major contributors to consumers’ lack of patience with websites and tendency to skip quickly from one site to the next is the rise in the use of mobile smartphones and tablets. In 2012, mobile consisted of 24 percent of site traffic on Black Friday, up from 14 percent in 2011. With so many consumers using a mobile device to complete their holiday shopping, retailers that fail to provide a mobile-friendly experience will not only lose immediate sales, but those customers are also more likely to visit a competitor when they return to their desktop or laptop computer.

How to Improve Your Bottom Line

In order to ensure that your business isn’t included in the percentage losing their customers due to poor site performance, consider these tips.

Focus on the Mobile Experience:

E-commerce sites that merely convert their current website into a mobile app or lead customers to the same site whether they are browsing on a phone or desktop are setting themselves up for failure. Traditional websites are slow to load and hard to use on a mobile device, further exasperating an online shopper. Instead, create an app or site specific to mobile that loads quickly, avoids small links or a lot of typing and is picture oriented.

Personalize and Streamline the Experience:
    
Get to know your customer, so you can cater their experience in a more personal way. With big data analytics via Hadoop, businesses can gather and analyze more and more information, such as what the customer was talking about on social media and which Internet networks they are browsing from as well as clickstream data. With the advent of big data, a site can recognize a consumer even if they switch which device they are using and offer a customized landing page based off of the consumer’s browsing history or expression of interests on social media. Doing this speeds up the process for the customer, as they no longer have to search for the items they are interested in.

Test Site Latency Under Real-Life Conditions:

A user’s experience with your site will vary based on where they are located, the network service provider, the time of day, the number of users on the network and a host of other factors that could slow your site down. When testing the speed of your site, be sure to recreate the most common conditions your key customers experience in the test lab. Doing this will allow you to pinpoint potential problems and take care of them under the conditions the user will actually be in.    

By following these tips online businesses should have a happy shopping season as their conversion rates will be higher and their bounce rates lower.