Performance varies widely within online-only and brick-and-mortar categories
Mother’s day is a big time of year for jewelers. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 31 percent of American consumers are planning to buy jewelry for the holiday this year. Clearly there’s a lot of revenue at stake for jewelry retailers seeking to capitalize on that consumer willingness.
This pressure applies equally to e-commerce jewelers. Online jewelry sales is big business: Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide counts 15 jewelers among its list of the 500 biggest e-commerce vendors. Those 15 sites accounted for over $1 billion in category sales in 2010.
Website performance matters for any e-commerce vendor, but the issue takes on a distinctive hue when it comes to big-ticket items like jewelry. As one might expect, average order size at online jewelry stores is consistently larger than at stores in other categories. The largest jewelry e-retailer, for example, had an average order of nearly $1700 dollars in 2010. What other B2C industry can boast such consistently large orders over the Internet?
These big orders mean that each visitor represents a large revenue opportunity—to lose any customers to a competitor because of a slow website would be distressing for any jewelry website owner. With this in mind, we wanted to find out how some of the top jewelers stacked up in performance. We compiled a performance benchmark including 15 jewelry sites in the Top 500 list, and tracked their performance. Click to see the results.
Yottaa has real web browsers located around the world collecting performance data. This data is then plugged into an algorithm that compiles it into a single score from 1 to 100, called the Yottaa Score. This accounts for the relative importance of certain stages of the page load process regarding user experience, making Yottaa Score a distinctive measure of website performance from the shopper’s perspective.
The results of the benchmark showed a wide range of performance: we saw Yottaa Scores from 10 to 90. The average was 51 and the median 57.
Interestingly, several online-only stores posted poorer performance than their brick-and-mortar competitors (B&M). It would seem that B&M companies for which e-commerce forms a small percentage of annual revenue would devote less time to performance, while online-only businesses would make it a top priority. That seems not to be so as a general rule.
In particular, Kay.com and Tiffany.com, sites operated by companies well over 100 years old, are near the top of the list for performance, while Jomashop.com and ICE.com, online only businesses, are at the bottom. It’s worth noting that Jomashop runs its e-commerce on the notoriously slow Yahoo e-commerce platform. It also appears that one online-only retailer, Limoges, took steps to improve performance during the time of the benchmark, possibly in preparation for the holiday
Images – A Necessary Evil?
Product pictures are hugely important for e-commerce success. For most consumers, seeing before buying is imperative. This is especially true for jewelry, as high-resolution, extreme-close-up photography is needed to exhibit the quality and workmanship of the pieces. Plus, photos of jewelry are more likely than other types of products to be shared on Social Media or email, by customers who want friendly opinions on their choices or simply enjoy looking at beautiful baubles. (One jeweler, Gemvara.com, is already successfully leveraging this photo-sharing tendency using Pinterest, and others are following suit.)
Jomashop.com, on the other hand, currently loads 244 assets on its homepage, with images taking up the lion's share of the pie.
The performance difference between Jomashop and Tiffany is huge: 80 points of Yottaa score. Tiffany is the best of show in this benchmark, while Jomashop rounds out the bottom. Images are surely not the only factor in this performance differential, but it's certainly worth noting that the number of images correlates so strongly with the performance in this case.