Top Retailers Are Missing the Mark for Mobile Performance - What Can Be Done?
December 11, 2013

Steven Dykstra
Dynatrace

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The mobile commerce opportunity is huge, as proven most recently by the Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday shopping period. On Thanksgiving, eBay tracked a 91 percent year-over-year increase in the number of transactions through PayPal on mobile devices. On Black Friday, that increase reached 99.2 percent. On Cyber Monday, Adobe tracked a record 18.3 percent of sales coming from mobile devices, an increase of 80 percent from 2012. Our own research at Compuware showed that mobile traffic volumes were 89 percent higher on Black Friday and 87 percent higher on Cyber Monday, compared with days leading up to the online holiday shopping weekend.

Though good news for e-commerce operators, the growth in mobile commerce merits a word of caution. Consumers increasingly expect their online mobile interactions to match the performance excellence (speed and reliability) of a desktop PC.

A consumer survey conducted by Harris Interactive revealed that 37 percent of smartphone and tablet users will go to a competitor if a site's response time is more than three seconds. Further, Compuware data found that page load times during the critical Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday shopping period averaged over 10 seconds, and averaged more than 18 seconds to complete a multiple-step transaction that consists of accessing the home page, conducting a search, viewing a product description, adding items to the shopping cart and reviewing the order. When page load times increase, abandonment rates also increased, causing retailers to lose revenue.

What can retailers do to better capitalize on the mobile commerce opportunity? We recommend the following key strategies, throughout the remainder of the holiday season and beyond:

Streamline Mobile Sites as Much as Possible

Time and time again, we have seen that performance – the speed and reliability of web pages and applications – wins out over rich features and functionality when it comes to driving conversions.

We believe that retailers are still trying to push out too much content onto mobile devices. While some pages have been optimized for mobile, others remain overloaded and retailers really need to work on slimming down these sites. Specifically, retailers need to better leverage web performance optimization techniques like reducing reliance on third-parties and eliminating unnecessary roundtrips, which can drag down response levels.

Delivering rich features and functionality is hard enough over the wired web, and the constraints of mobile carrier networks and devices make it that much harder. Therefore, mobile sites must be designed to be extra nimble.

Monitor All Mobile Transactions, 24x7

One big surprise this year was the extent to which Thanksgiving itself has become a prime day for mobile commerce. For example, we tracked a very large spike this year in Thanksgiving day traffic - a 95 percent jump in iPad traffic compared to the day before (in contrast, last year’s day-over-day jump was 23 percent). This year there was also a 69 percent jump in iPhone traffic from the previous day.

In addition, it seems that consumers are shopping via their mobile devices earlier in the season. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving (November 23), iPad traffic jumped up 47 percent and iPhone up 22 percent over the three previous days. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, iPad traffic jumped up 90 percent and iPhone 42 percent over those same days.

All of this validates something we at Compuware APM have been saying for some time: By making web access ubiquitous, mobile devices blur the lines between what have traditionally been peak and non-peak periods. To capitalize on the mobile opportunity, retailers have to deliver strong mobile experiences all the time; no time is ok for mediocre or poor performance anymore.

The Harris Interactive survey cited earlier found that 29 percent of smartphone/tablet users who have a poor online shopping experience are likely to complain on social media. Monitoring all mobile transactions, 24x7 is therefore the only way to proactively detect and get ahead of performance problems before irreparable damage to company reputation is done.

Prioritize Performance for Native Mobile Apps

At Compuware, we believe that mobile applications as a unique phenomenon will disappear. That is, mobile, native, web, store as separate engagement channels will give way to "Omni-Channel" application development, monitoring and management. Managing the user experience across all of these channels including native mobile apps will be vital. In fact, the very nature of native mobile applications – often accessed by customers on the go, hunting for deals – places an ultimate premium on speed and convenience.

Since app users tend to be loyal, repeat customers with significant lifetime value, the stakes for delivering highly satisfying, high-performance app experiences is huge, and more than one-third of smartphone and tablet users will be using company-specific native mobile apps this holiday season.

In spite of this knowledge, native app performance snafus – e.g., crashes, freezes, errors, slow launch times, apps that never properly launch – are common. Fortunately, retailers can better protect and enhance the performance of their native mobile apps by leveraging common monitoring practices for native apps and mobile web apps, even though one is native and the other is a standardized web technology.

Specifically, this means that retailers must combine end-user experience monitoring across multiple app versions and device types with deep-dive diagnostics. Mobile web applications depend on a wide range of web and network technologies performing well, including carriers, ISPs and CDNs. Native apps depend on these same factors, as well as an additional set of factors including signal strength, battery level and device memory. Even if a native mobile app is built with excellent code, there are a host of other external factors that can impact performance. Regardless of the type of app, there needs to be an end-to-end view of performance from the end-user perspective so that companies can quickly see, understand and address the source of performance problems – whether it's a code problem or something else.

Conclusion

This year, mobile site performance had a direct impact on business performance during the start of the holiday shopping season, and unless retailers make some fairly significant changes to their mobile sites, these performance levels we're seeing will likely continue. Unfortunately, like most free-willed consumers, mobile shoppers are apt to be more naughty than nice when they have a poor experience. They will abandon their carts and go to competitors; or worse yet, they will write disparaging app reviews and vent on social networks. Disappointed users can cause substantial collateral damage to brand reputations, and just one is all it takes.

Faster, more reliable mobile sites and interactions equal happier customers and more sales. It is absolutely essential that retailers give mobile visitors the smooth, high performance interactions they're looking for, leveraging performance optimization techniques originating from the desktop web. Optimizing mobile sites and applications in this way is the key to maximizing the rapidly growing mobile commerce opportunity.

Steven Dykstra is Senior Product Manager, Compuware APM.

Related Links:

Steven Dykstra, Compuware Senior Product Manager, Joins the APMdigest Vendor Forum

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