Consider this common scenario: A prospective customer opens their favorite search engine and inputs their search query, something like “adorable cake toppers.” The search returns over one million results. Our consumer opens about a half dozen pages – yours included. Clicking through each of the tabs, the shopper impatiently glances at photos and web pages, closing the windows that haven’t loaded along the way – yours included.
Research shows 40 percent of people abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. Winning a sale or losing a customer comes down to a matter of seconds. Further, customers are prone to demonstrating weak confidence in your brand, if they consistently experience lethargy at your site.
Long story short, slow load times can be a real nightmare for ecommerce stores.
Block the Bots
One of the biggest instigators of slow load times is artificially bloated web traffic. In addition to being populated by people, the web also hosts bots. These are autonomous programs that interact with sites and services, often in a nefarious way.
Bots could be plaguing your ecommerce site without you even knowing it. They click advertisements, scrape content and weigh down your site, sometimes preventing real customers from interacting with your content.
This is obviously a problem, but an even bigger issue is Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, which flood a website with phony web requests at the behest of a hacker until it crashes.
Thankfully, there are dozens of bot mitigation techniques. These include algorithms capable of detection and redirection of bogus traffic. You can also require CAPTCHA confirmations and block malicious bots.
Prevent “Scale Fail”
Excessive legitimate traffic can also buckle your operations. Every year, online stores (big and small) crash during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales because they cannot handle the volume of incoming web requests.
This is a bit of a blessing and a curse. Customers are more than eager to visit your ecommerce site and spend money, but they will lose interest if they can’t get it to load. So how do you prevent this?
Free ecommerce website templates like those from Shopify offer pre-fab themes for quick site building along with a robust backend platform to handle heavy customer traffic. Stress testing in another good idea for e-stores that are unsure how durable their site is.
However, if you want to get creative, you could also parcel out specific sales over several days to avert “scale fail” during the busy season. For example, you could offer deep discounts on women’s clothing for Black Friday and a flash sale on men’s wear on Cyber Monday.
Build a Better Site
Similarly, there may be some site building tips of which you are not aware. For instance, did you know you could compress HD images for faster load times? This can make a big difference for sites with lots of product photos.
Another recommendation is to cut third-party advertising from your website. Banner ads and pop-ups do more to distract customers and slow load times than they do to drive sales or generate revenue.
Finally, use a website builder or platform compatible with smartphones and tablets. Mobile makes up 30 percent of all U.S. ecommerce, meaning it is absolutely vital to ensure your site is fast across all devices. Slow load times are an ecommerce killer, do everything you can to avoid falling victim to them.
This is a guest post by Susan Smith.