I still remember the days of Amazon as an online bookstore. It was a decent website with much more limited options when compared to what Amazon offers today. It would take ages to load the pages on my ADSL internet connection. However, despite the slow internet speed, which would add up to the slow website speed, I found Amazon as a great place to get those books delivered to my home address. Today, you have to make your e-commerce website faster if you want to compete.
There are two reasons why Amazon survived despite its slow load time:
- Amazon was the only online bookstore. There was no other alternative.
- There was no fast internet back then, so page load speed had a small impact on user experience.
- We have a number of alternatives to shop online.
- We have lightning fast internet connections everywhere.
What do you think?
- Would anybody wait for your website to load anymore?
- That your competitors can’t offer a better value proposition than you can?
The answer is an unqualified NO!
It doesn’t matter if it’s your website or their internet connection that’s slowing things down. If your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, over 40% of your users are going to abandon your site and purchase from your competitor.
Say, you are making $50,000/day. Due to slow speed, you will potentially lose $1.25 million in sales in a year for a single second extra in load speed. Conversely, if you take your e-Commerce site speed from eight seconds to two seconds, you would improve your conversion rates by a massive 74%.
That’s’ what Radeware.com stated in its study back in 2015. The following is what they said about the numbers of users who would wait for your website to load back in 1999, 2006, and 2010:
It doesn’t matter if you are using the most attractive e-commerce software on the market. If your website front-end is not fast enough, you’ll make a lot less money. If you still have doubts or you’re thinking about delaying website speed optimization, know that customers today link your e-commerce site speed directly to trust and confidence in your business.
Having a faster e-commerce website has its own merits, both in terms of conversion rate optimization and search engine optimization. Do you think Google is going to place a slow loading website on top of its SERPs? Google wants you to make your website faster.
How to track your website speed?
There are N numbers of free-to-use and Premium tools to track your website speed. However, I find two of them extremely useful. That’s because they not only track and tell you about your website speed on mobile and desktop separately but also give a detailed report that includes:
- How slow is your website from your competitors?
- What can you do to improve your website speed?
- What’s working fine that you shouldn’t mess with?
The recommended tools are Google’s Page Speed Insights and Think with Google’s Test My Site. Google itself backs both of the tools. Page Speed Insights not only tests website speed and tells you about factors that degrade the site speed, but it also lays out detailed tips on how to improve the overall user experience on your website. It gives out a separate audit for your site’s speed on mobile and desktop web browsers.
Test My Site is dedicated to mobile-specific insights alone. Using this tool, you not only audit your site’s speed on mobile but also view a detailed report about your current position when compared to your competition’s sites.
What makes your website slow?
You’ll discover most of the technical reasons for slow website speed using the above two tools. However, I would like to extend this by enlisting some common mistakes that e-commerce website owners make. Although these issues don’t apply to e-commerce sites alone, they have a more severe impact on heavy websites like eCommerce marketplaces if handled inappropriately.
1. Bad code
This mistake links directly to your e-commerce or marketplace software. With web technologies getting ever more advanced, the overall cost of e-commerce website development declined significantly. Today, we use ready-made e-commerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, and PrestaShop, and headless shopping cart software solutions like WooCommerce to build our e-commerce sites quickly and affordably. And, not all these tools are the same when it comes to impacting site speed.
These solutions compete with each other to acquire market share. Each uses a distinct technology stack to bring down the cost of development, so more and more people are using them. However, lower-cost doesn’t always represent the best way to build an e-commerce website. Especially when your e-commerce marketplace is massively competitive. No doubt, the platforms themselves possess cutting-edge technology stacks and optimized codes, but not the right third-party solutions.
Take Magento, for instance. Magento is indeed a great e-commerce platform, but it relies on its community developers to come up with Magento extensions. Not every Magento extension developed by a community developer follows best coding practices. Subsequently, bad extensions, modules, and add-ons make an overall eCommerce platform slow.
2. Bad website hosting
Not all website hosts offer optimal solutions for hosting e-commerce websites. Especially, not in their shared hosting options. To save some money, some website owners buy cheap web hosting plans, which ultimately turn out to cost more in lost sales (what we call opportunity costs) than they could have spent by choosing a dedicated web hosting plan from a decent hosting company.
3. Bad media and data handling
E-commerce sites use large numbers of multimedia and heavy files for an array of undertakings like product images, banner images, product videos, and many more. With every file uploaded on the web pages, the server needs more time to load a page. To make it worse, webmasters do not even optimize the media resolution and file-size for faster loading. We know, you need to upload high-quality media to enhance the user experience, but you lose users when they can’t even see your images and videos because they don’t load properly?
4. Needless stress on the hosting server
All three mistakes explained above add up to extra and unnecessary stress on the hosting server, directly or indirectly. Any mistake made in terms of hosting plan, coding style, or multi-media handling makes the hosting server slow.
There are so many ways to reduce server stress in the coding itself. Understanding how your e-commerce software handles these queries determines what actions will reduce page load speed. Bad media handling also causes the server to lose storage space, which is a bigger problem if you’re using a shared server.
3 ways to fix a slow website for good
Well, the internet is full of articles and tips to boost your website speed using hundreds of tactics. All of them are possibly correct as well. However, all those tips and solutions to boost your eCommerce site speed link directly to the following three optimization options:
1. Go for a good web host
Avoid shared and cheap hosts for your e-commerce site. Shared servers are workable only when you’re running a blog for a hobby; they are not good for any kind of professional websites. A good dedicated web host is especially important for an eCommerce website because you hope to handle millions of users, gigabytes of files, and highly secure online payments.
Instead, go for a dedicated web hosting plan from a reputed company. I would suggest you avoid virtual private servers, as well, if you hope for high traffic volume on your site. Alternatively, you might also choose elastic cloud servers, which offer flexibility to upscale and downscale your server-size based on the load in real-time. In this way, you only pay for what you use.
Don’t forget to consider the number of data centers, hardware quality, server-software used by your hosting company, and the quality of customer support offered before selecting a web host.
2. Use a content delivery network (CDN)
Now that you have a good web hosting plan, is it enough to take the stress away from the server? No, not yet! You should use your web-hosting server only for storing your website’s code, nothing else. Don’t even use your host to store multimedia like product images. There are two reasons for this:
- Multi-media files eat-up your server space and make it slow.
- When you place a request to the server, it takes some time to first contact the origin server, which processes the request then sends the response back to you.
Using a content delivery network (CDN) you reduce the extra stress from the origin server by storing the multi-media files on it, while at the same time reducing the time required for the server to get a query, process it, and send a response or serve a file.
CDNs make a massive network of locally installed servers on prominent geolocations. Each local server on the network works like an independent node and serves all the requests done by the users in their allocation locations. These nodes use dynamic caching to store files and information temporarily from the origin servers based on predictive analysis of a user’s behavior.
Whenever there is a need to fetch some information from the origin server, the nearest nodes need not go to the origin server each time, and they serve the user from cached information itself. This makes the overall process faster.
That’s why you must use a CDN to not only store your multimedia files and free up server storage but also relieve the origin server from unnecessary stress.
3. Optimize your web technology stack
Make sure your e-commerce software, website builder, or shopping cart software works properly, and you optimize its back-end settings for speed. Besides, you must also ensure that the modules, extensions, theme, and the template you use were built on standard designing frameworks.
The technology stacks used in your marketplace software have a significant impact on the speed of your website. It’s hardly noticeable in small and mid-sized websites, but if you need a large website, you should consider using specific stacks like Java or Node.js instead of legacy PHP-based stacks. A Node.Js shopping cart is a good choice for building massive websites.
I would also suggest not using SaaS-based or hosted e-commerce platforms if you target millions of users. Their affordable plans don’t do much for handling heavy loads, and the bigger plans just cost too much. It’s better to choose an open-source eCommerce platform and bundle it with good web hosting and CDN to serve the millions of users and products you serve.
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