Time is money!” used to be the command companies followed to boost their productivity and increase profits. Fast forward to a mobile-first world where research firm eMarketer forecasts a whopping 86.2% of the 3.75 billion Internet users worldwide will use a mobile phone to go online by end-2019, and the same maxim is the imperative companies must obey to improve the customer experience and drive sales.
Ironically, webpages have become bloated at the same time that mobile-first consumers demand experiences that reduce friction and deliver instant results. So, what’s driving what Machmetrics, a company that offers a cloud-based website speed monitoring solution, calls the “Website Obesity Epidemic?” It depends. It may be video, it may be images, it may be script—or it may be a combination of all of the above. But there’s no lack of consensus that companies have to do more to trim the fat.
Speed equals revenue
The stakes are high. A slow loading page on a mobile device doesn’t just try consumers’ patience. It can be the customer experience ‘fail’ that costs you a sale. This is the key takeaway of the 2019 Page Speed Report from Unbounce, a company specialized in building high-converting landing pages and popups for marketing campaigns. The study, which explores the attitudes of 1,150 consumers and businesses, finds that page speed is a deciding factor in purchasing behavior.
Specifically, nearly 70% of consumers say page speed impacts their willingness to buy. What’s more, a slow loading time also lessens chances they will return in the future. A breakdown of the data reveals 22% of shoppers said they would close the tab and 15% said they would visit a competitor’s site and 12% would tell a friend about their negative experience, Unbounce’s VP of Product Marketing Ryan Engley said in an interview with Small Business Trends. As Engley sees it: “Companies who not only make page speed a priority this year but benchmark their speeds against their competition will be ahead of the game a year from now.”
These findings dovetail with renowned research from cloud services provider Akamai. Its 2018 State of Online Retail Performance revealed that conversion rates decrease drastically as page load times increase. For example, the data shows that when mobile site load time increases from 1 second to 3, conversion rate reduces by half and bounce rate increases by 6%. Conversion rates continue to decline sharply from there. “It is imperative that online retailers invest resources to ensure web and mobile pages load fast,” the report concludes.
The bottom line: Bounce rate—the percentage of users that navigate away from a website after viewing only one page—increases significantly as the page load time goes up. If you want consumers to do business with you, you need to ensure your site loads as quickly as possible, especially on a mobile device. Which raises the question: how fast is fast enough?
One second is the magic number
While site loading speeds have been dropping in recent years, visitors are still waiting too long for many mobile pages to render completely. The new reality? A mobile page must display content to consumers in one second or less.
That’s the golden standard businesses must meet or beat to reach and convert consumers high on expectation and low on patience, according to the Mobile Marketing Association in Germany (MMA Germany) and Google in Germany. They have recently released a refresh of the Mobile Speed Leaderboards, a benchmark report that taps site traffic data from German consumer research firm GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumgüter) and site speed statistics from the Chrome User Experience Report to show the importance of fast loading speeds and highlight those companies that outshine their competitors.[Disclosure: In addition to my work as a mobile analyst, researching and documenting trends including the growth of the mobile market in Germany, I serve as the Chief Content Officer of the MMA Germany, a position for which I am not paid.]
To understand the state of site speed across the globe, 6 million domains across 55 countries (including Germany) were analyzed. To determine the lineup of local leaders and also-rans in the Mobile Speed Leaderboards, MMA Germany and Google also closely examined mobile loading time of Germany’s 250 most-visited mobile websites across the Retail and Travel verticals, as well as 17 additional industries, including Consumer Electronics.
Among the findings:
- The average mobile website loading time in Germany is 2.6 seconds.
- At 2.1 seconds, websites for job portals and delivery services loaded fastest, up 25% over the previous year.
- On average, Retail posted loading times of 2.5 seconds (up 13% from the previous year). Travel came in just behind, posting an average loading time of 3.0 seconds (up 19% from the previous year).
Importantly, this iteration of the Mobile Speed Leaderboards looked beyond Germany’s borders to compare mobile website loading times globally.
In a global comparison, Germany takes the midfield with an average mobile load time of 2.6 seconds. Source: Chrome User Experience Report (April 2019, 6 million domains, 4G)
Among the top countries, Taiwan was fastest at 2.4 seconds, followed closely by Switzerland. Germany, with an average mobile load time of 2.6 seconds, ranked 15th globally and 12th in Europe. The U.S., which has an average load time of 3.1 seconds, didn’t make the cut. Google tells me slower sites can be linked with a number of factors that impact load speed, including page weight and pages that are not optimized for mobile or simply do not prioritize the loading of visible components first.
Germany’s 1-Second Club counts the best
Overall, German mobile websites improved their load time by eight percent year-over-year, Dominik Wöber, Head of Mobile & Display Solutions, Central Europe at Google, tells me in an interview. It’s a significant increase that brings the MMA Germany and Google a huge step closer to their aim: encouraging companies to meet and exceed the general user expectation of a load time of one second.
However, a handful of companies in Germany have gone one better, optimizing their mobile websites to load in one second or less. These high-performance companies number just eight, or 3.2%, of Germany’s 250 most-visited mobile websites and join the ranks of the so-called “1-Second Club,” a group of companies that has internalized the need for speed.
A prime example is OTTO, the Hamburg-based online retailer and e-commerce company. With an online turnover of €3.2 billion ($3.5 billion), OTTO is one of Europe’s largest online retailers, and with a loading speed of under one second, it’s certainly one of the fastest.
“Smartphones and tablets have changed the way we live, the way we shop and the business of e-commerce completely,” Marc Opelt, Chairman of the OTTO Management Board, told me in an interview. “We live in a world where the next competitor is just a swipe away from your own online shop—and this is why we believe loading times have an impact on the consumer experience and a direct influence on our economic success.”
Inclusion in the 1-Second Club is more than an accolade, Opelt says. It’s an affirmation that the decision early on to improve the user experience on the website otto.de was on the mark. “Working on loading speed is not just an initiative. It’s part of our developers’ mindset,” he explains. “Today, over 70 percent of our users come to otto.de using their mobile phones and devices, and every user expects to shop on the go without delay.”
While OTTO is determined to push the envelope on mobile speed ranking, it also has its sights set on a bigger prize: the transformation from an online retailer to a platform. “Combining these goals with an ongoing good basic performance is crucial, which undoubtedly includes fast loading times on every device,” Opelt says. “The basic requirement of today’s business models is to deliver relevant content to customers within an increasingly short period of time, and only those businesses and business models mindful of this requirement will be successful in the long term.”
Thanks to Unbounce data, we know that 70% of consumers call out webpage speed as a chief factor that impacts their willingness to purchase. But another finding in the Unbounce report is much more shocking. While 81% of marketers acknowledge that speed influences their conversions, only 3% say improving loading speed is a top priority in 2019. It’s a dangerous disconnect that sits in strong contrast to OTTO and its peers in the 1-Second Club, a group of companies that makes the clear connection between load speeds and the customer experience. Page speed may be overlooked by many as one of the most important factors in gaining customer attention and retention. But it won’t remain that way for long as more companies recognize faster loading speed for what it is: the critical component that can turn visitors to buyers—and lasting advocates.