Seasonal sales at risk as UK’s biggest retailers neglect website load speeds for second year running

The UK’s top retailers are risking seasonal sales through failure to improve their website load speeds over the past 12 months, according to a new index report.

The research, carried out by leading ecommerce and digital agency Visualsoft, forms part of the company’s second annual e-retail performance report. The aim was to analyse and identify what progress the UK’s top 250 e-retailers have made to maximise their true growth potential over the past year – if they have made any at all.

The study found that 62% of retail websites rated as ‘poor’ – taking longer than nine seconds to load on 3G – in comparison to 54% of sites that rated poor in 2017.

A further 16% of retailers’ sites took 15 seconds or longer to load. This figure has worsened by 4% vs. the same time last year. Google estimates that these e-retailers will be losing a minimum of 32% of all potential visitors through load time alone.

Only 1% of the retailers tested were marked ‘excellent’ - taking under four seconds to load and expected to experience low levels of potential visitor loss. This is also a worse performance than 2017, when 2% of retailers rated as excellent.

The figures run contrary to the growing importance of mobile in driving seasonal revenues. Statistics show that Black Friday weekend was the biggest ever for traffic and sales made via mobile, and the trend is only set to continue in the lead-up to Christmas.

Dean Benson, Visualsoft’s CEO, commented: “Page load speed is one of the biggest contributors to customer frustration, basket abandonment and lost sales, with almost 47% of customers expecting a site to load in less than two seconds. However, many companies are still unwittingly sacrificing load speeds as they grow their online stores.

“The rapid growth of eCommerce may lure some brands into a false sense of security, but nobody is immune to the troubles of the retail sector. Optimising website performance is of business-critical importance.

“However, these figures underline a general picture of complacency within the biggest names in the sector. This provides a huge opportunity for smaller, hungrier businesses in the market to challenge the big brands – many of whom are clearly unable (or unwilling) to focus on getting the basics right - and are losing out on sales as a result.”

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