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Fast Loading e-Commerce Websites Convert Better

10 Tips to Speed up Conversion on e-Commerce websites

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April 28, 2017

While you might be able to brush it off as a minor annoyance, you may not realize that slow loading times cost you customers and better website rankings, and cause visitors to hit the back button before you even have a chance to convert them. You don’t have to leave all of that money on the table – you just have to learn to grab it faster. We’ve rounded up our best CRO tips for speeding up your site and improving conversion rates at the same time.

Time is Money

In no area of business is this aphorism more true than e-commerce. The longer your page takes to load, the more money you lose. For conversion rate optimization (CRO), prioritizing speed on every page and in every part of the sales funnel is vital, because slow loading times are the silent killers of e-commerce stores.

“A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.” – Kissmetrics & Amazon

One study commissioned by Akamai (with Forrester Consulting) found an even more troubling figure. Not only do users abandon pages that fail to load within 3 seconds, 79% of respondents said they wouldn’t return to the site to buy again. Slow sites don’t just lose customers on the day they’re slow – they lose them forever.

But time isn’t just money – it’s also search engine rankings (which leads back to money, because if people can’t find you, they can’t buy from you). As of 2010, Google’s algorithms ensure that website speed impacts search ranking (More recently, slow-performing mobile sites are also penalized with lower search rankings).

Consider this too: Your competitors are getting faster. In 2014, the median load time of the top 500 e-commerce home pages was a whopping 10 seconds. In 2015, Strangeloop found that the typical e-commerce site took nearly 5 seconds to load (with 10 seconds still being the average for the top 2000 retail sites). In 2016, Google’s Maile Ohye stated that “2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.”

For now, having a speedier site can still act as an important differentiator for your business. Soon though, maybe even within the next few months, it will be a necessity to keep up with everyone else.

Better load speeds improve:

  • User experience
    KISSmetrics found that 40% of customers will leave a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Additionally, every 1 second delay further decreases customer satisfaction by 16%.
  • Conversion rates
    Before they were acquired by Ensighten in 2014, TagMan ran a test on page speed and conversion behavior. They found that a one second delay caused a 7% loss in customer conversion.
  • Revenue growth
    Whittington Consulting found that a mere one second delay means that websites earning $100,000 per day will lose approximately $2.5 million in annual sales.
  • Search Engine Rankings
    Google has factored your website’s speed into your search engine rankings since 2010. So the slower your e-commerce site, the less likely customers are to find you.

Ready to speed up your e-commerce store? Don’t worry – it’s not hard, but slow speeds are death by a thousand tiny cuts. For best results, you’ll have to address the large and small things that make a big difference in load time.

10 Fixes for Slow e-Commerce Stores

Find a new host

Cheap and free hosting solutions are tempting on the surface, but they come at a high cost – especially if you’re trying to run a business.

Opt for Self-hosted

You’ll really feel the difference between hosted and self-hosted when your e-commerce store starts reaching into the hundreds or thousands of products.
When you need a lot of customization, have to set up complex multi-national web properties, or want to use your own domain for checkout (or require a high degree of integration with your shopping cart software) – in other words, when you need everything to be just so, you’ll want a self-hosted platform. You can, theoretically, do anything with them (as long as you have or can hire the expertise). This becomes more important the larger you grow.

WooCommerce and Magento are two of the most popular self-hosted e-commerce platforms on the market today. Magento is a standalone product (owned by eBay); WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress. Both are open source, which means you can build on or modify your platform according to your needs (and there is a lot of community help available).

But, when you need something that is simple and works, has 24-7 technical support, and is extremely reliable under most circumstances, hosted works well. Shopify and BigCommerce are hosted options – there’s nothing to install or maintain, you just log in and they take care of everything for you. But, if you want something off-menu, you’re out of luck.

Look into your design

Optimize the code of your webpages/themes.

When choosing a new theme, you can check your page’s load speed in the theme’s demo using tools like Pingdom, which I talk about in more detail at the bottom of this article.

Kill Plugins Slowing You Down

With so many plugin options available, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation of just one more, which is why so many e-commerce stores wind up with ridiculous loading speeds and sluggish response times. The best WooCommerce sites have as few plugins installed as possible.

Plugins Slowing Down Websites - sample from WordPress
Plugins Slowing Down Websites – sample from WordPress

Do you have one “must-have” plugin you just can’t bring yourself to unload? Chances are high you can find another plugin, with similar features, that won’t slow your website to a crawl. It’s well worth your while to look.

Minify CSS, HTML & JavaScript

With every new plugin you install or added functionality, code gets a little more bloated. Instead of combining JavaScript and CSS into one file each, your e-commerce website is instead linking to individual files on every page. Try to minimize this as much as possible. The minifying process also includes reducing file size by eliminating unnecessary spaces, notes, comments and characters (these can double the size of a file when left in).

Enable Compression

If your e-commerce site is self-hosted, you can usually find the “Enable compression” option in your server’s settings. If your e-commerce site is hosted, this may be done automatically (or not).

Enable Compression in order to Increase Website Speed
Enable Compression in order to Increase Website Speed

Compress Images

You want a lot of product images on an e-commerce site, but those images come with big file sizes unless they’re optimized. Plugins like WP Smush for WooCommerce or Shopify’s free online image resizer help you reduce the file size of images in your media library, with very little quality loss. Any image over 100k is in desperate need of a smush.

Reduce Image Size

Wait, didn’t I just say that? No – image size and compression are different. Reducing image size means actually making the pixels smaller. For example, if you want a 200×400 product image on your site, that is the size the picture should be on your server. Essentially, the process should look like this: Download your image (or upload the image from your SD card/phone/etc), then manually compress and resize them. Make it a habit.

Reduce Image Sizes
Reduce Image Sizes

Cloud-source content

Also known as browser caching, moving your static files from your website to a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like MaxCDN – in the cloud – is ideal if you receive lots of traffic. A CDN is a network of servers located around the world, so when someone clicks onto your site, they see the static content almost immediately because it’s loaded from the nearest server. Store CSS, Javascript files and images off-site to streamline your entire e-commerce process and improve loading speeds.

How CDN works
How CDN works

Optimize for Mobile

If you’ve optimized everything else, your mobile version should be fast – but is it responsive? Google Chrome lets you check how your website looks in different mobile versions from your computer. Click on the menu (the three vertical dots on the top right), click on “More Tools,” and “Developer Tools.” A window with code will pop up on the right, and at the top is a toggle function.

Optimize for Mobile
Optimize for Mobile

Move Render-Blocking Down

This one requires more technical expertise, but essentially, you want to move all JavaScript code from the header and body (above the fold) to the footer (below the fold) – for your entire website. This article goes into the in-depth how-to. If your technical knowledge is limited and you’re using WordPress, the Autoptimize plugin can help with this.

Your End Goals

Ideally, you want your website to…

  1. Load in under 1.8 seconds.
  2. Be under 3 mb in size.
  3. Have a performance grade above 75 (Pingdom is my favorite tool for this).

To calculate that last one, you’ll need a tool like Pingdom (which I am not affiliated with, but highly recommend).

Pingdom - Check Website Speed
Pingdom – Check Website Speed

Pingdom will help you analyze your e-Commerce site’s entire performance, including load times. It will also help you compare different designs against each other, to find the one that is right for you.

Do you agree with my list? Let me know in the comments which plugins you depend on to keep your e-Commerce site running smoothly.

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