Preventing Customer ‘Churn’ With Website Performance


When electronic retailers think about their websites, they probably think about how the sites look and whether they’re live or not. But how often do they stop to examine other critical issues such as website performance and the user experience? Marketers need to start thinking beyond making sure their websites are up and looking good, and start assessing how effective the sites are at bringing in revenue.


A recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. online shoppers conducted on behalf of Monitis found that almost three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents said they would switch to a competing online vendor if they had a poor user experience at a site they currently use. What’s more, consumers who spend more than two hours a week shopping online are even less tolerant of slow e-retail sites, with 86 percent saying they would abandon their chosen online vendor if they found a competing site that operates faster.


There are website metrics that online stores already use to ensure that they don’t lose customers to their competitors. But analyzing navigation paths, bounce rates, and conversion rates won’t matter if your site is running slowly or isn’t running at all. Consumers turn to online vendors for convenience, so it’s critical that e-retailers ensure a positive shopping experience by focusing on website usability and speed.


Early on in e-commerce, there was an eight-second rule, meaning that if consumers had to wait more than eight seconds for a Web page to load, they would abandon the website. In 2009, Akamai Technologies, an e-commerce company in Cambridge, Mass., found that “47 percent of consumers expect an e-commerce page to load in two seconds or less.” But even a two-second rule now seems like it might be outdated, Microsoft research scientist Eric Horvitz recently said: “The old, two-second guideline has long been surpassed on the racetrack of Web expectations.”


Slow-loading Web pages are annoying and inconvenient. Eighty-one percent of survey respondents said convenience is the primary reason they shop online as opposed to shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, indicating that e-retailers should start to optimize their sites with speed in mind. Slow-loading pages need immediate attention if marketers hope to retain customers and ensure their satisfaction.


Our survey also found that 56 percent of consumers who spend more than two hours per week shopping online have cancelled an order due to an error or slow response time. How much does this mean in revenues to the average e-retail business? Whether it’s the home page or pages deep in the site, marketers should capture page-load times and use this data to improve Web performance to avoid losing sales.


E-retailers should also remember that the Internet is constantly changing. While fine-tuning a website’s performance today is a good first step, it doesn’t mean that the site administrator won’t see poor performance tomorrow. It’s one thing to achieve good performance, but it’s another to maintain it.


The first step to maintaining good website performance is to monitor it proactively for potential issues. With so many website components and transactions running at all times, this task can’t be done cost-effectively by humans. Ideally, an automated system will notify administrators when performance drops below user-specified levels. If a website is not monitored well or at all, this is the first step marketers should take to improve performance.


E-commerce sites need to focus on website performance and the user experience in order to increase revenue; simply avoiding downtime is no longer sufficient. Marketers must meet all shopper expectations to keep them coming back. By placing more focus on website performance and user experience, e-retailers can prevent customer “churn” and transaction losses.


Hovhannes Avoyan is the general manager at Monitis, Inc., a leading provider of Web and cloud application monitoring solutions.  Avoyan is a computer science veteran with more than 27 years of programming and management experience.  Prior to Monitis, he was director of development at Lycos Europe, where he grew his team from 30 to 220 employees and created the largest development center in the company.  During this time, Avoyan and his team identified the need for a comprehensive way to monitor more than 2,000 servers at once, prompting the creation of the Monitis Web and cloud monitoring solution.