E-tail giants fail consumers in Q3

The UK's 50 busiest e-tailers delivered another quarter of poor website performance for consumers, with slow download speeds and sites inaccessible for hours.

NCC Group's quarterly online retail report analyses the average download speed and uptime of the 50 most visited e-tail websites. Both speed and outages were well below par in Q3 – a worrying trend with the lucrative Christmas period on the horizon.

Average download speed was 6.6 seconds on a 2 Mbps connection, coming in well above the 3 second target that e-tailers aim for. The websites were also down – inaccessible to users – for an average of 4 hours and 32 minutes over the three months.

This poor performance has been seen throughout the year, with the Q1 and Q2 figures also well below par.

Bob Dowson, director of NCC Group's website performance division said: "Time really is money when it comes to website performance. The top retailers are losing revenues with every minute their website is down and every unnecessary second their website takes to load. Worryingly, this poor performance is a trend we've seen all through 2013."

The research comes in the same month as a government-commissioned report which called for a cyber security 'kite mark' for e-commerce websites, in order to improve customer confidence and boost e-tail revenues. According to NCC Group, cyber security and web performance are two sides of the same coin. Bob continued: "It's all about consumer confidence. Customers expect the online buying process to be fast, simple and secure, with a rapid checkout process that is clearly signposted as safe."

Rob Horton, director at NCC Group's security testing, audit and compliance division said: "Consumers are becoming more 'cyber aware' and want assurance throughout the shopping process that their personal and financial details are secure. But at the same time they don't react kindly to unnecessary hold ups in their transaction. Retailers must strike a balance between security and performance."

Despite the poor performance in 2013, there is hope for the future. HTTP 2.0 – a new way of connecting to the internet – is just around the corner. This is likely to mean quicker, safer web browsing by default. However, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to offset the downward trend in performance from the top e-tailers.

Bob concluded: "There's no substitute for a fast, secure website. The e-tailers who invest in both security and performance will reap the rewards when it comes to customer loyalty."

*https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/251544/bis-13-1231-competitive-analysis-of-the-uk-cyber-security-sector.pdf

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