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Is eCommerce Heading Towards Valentine’s Day Heartbreak?

Just one day remains until Valentine’s Day and eCommerce vendors are in a crazed rush to cash in on the season of love.

This year, advertisers have bet big on digital. Data shows that digital ads work. According to the Rubicon Project, 57% of consumers have been influenced to purchase by online Valentine’s Day ads.

Ads for chocolates, jewelry, lingerie and flowers have blitzed the Web. Competition is fierce and special offers like next day delivery and exclusive online offers are leveraged to sweeten the deal for online buyers.

The world of marketing is similar to the dating world. It is much easier to attract someone’s attention than it is to keep it. Many online retailers will spend big on digital ads in February to attract buyers, only to lose out when they fail to hold a visitor’s attention.

In previous years, Yottaa has covered online retail performance for Valentine’s Day. So, we decided to revisit our study and see how well online retailers have adjusted to the needs of modern users.

The Methodology

Our process was mapped to reflect the typical buyer’s journey of an online shopper

  • We searched for popular Valentine’s Day companies and selected the top result
  • Then, we followed their Valentine’s Day Call-to-Action to a category or product page
  • Finally, we tested the resulting URL using Yottaa’s end-user experience monitoring solution

The Usual Subjects:

We chose some of the biggest names in Valentine’s Day commerce to examine.

Observations & Results:

1. eCommerce applications are still very large

Just as our data from previous years showed, online applications remain very large in size. The average size or “weight” of our samples was a hefty 4.58MB. Victoria’s Secret had the smallest download size (1.81MB) and Tiffany & Co was the largest (11.55MB).

The large size of eCommerce apps is not a surprise. A major brand like Victoria’s Secret offers a huge inventory of products. This means their application contains thousands of high-resolution images (read: large) and features dynamic content (video, personalizations & 3rd party plug-ins).

Dynamic page elements are essential to curate a unique and engaging experience for app users. However, extra weight can easily kill app performance, especially on less-powerful mobile devices and networks. To engage users and drive revenue eCommerce must find a way to balance the two.

2. Did large sites affect performance?

Our data showed significant variation in performance between apps. Edible Arrangements and 1800 Flowers were clear winners. Both apps saw page load in the range of 3.5 seconds. Moreover, viewports were close to ‘fully painted’, a second earlier. A quick render is an essential element to user engagement and low bounce rates. Bravo, guys! Other companies did not fare as well.

It is probably safe to assume that our sample brands are all doing something to help improve app delivery and user experience. Major retailers leverage a combination of content delivery networks, infrastructure solutions and a content management systems to help package and send data to users in an efficient manner. This strategies have been in place for a decade.

However, there is always room for improvement. Just like a perfect Valentine’s Day gift, providing a perfectly optimized user experience can pay big dividends for retailers. Research from Google shows a 1 second improvement in load time can boost conversions 7%. That’s huge for retailers and the biggest opportunity for improvement is on mobile.

3. There’s a huge opportunity for competitive differentiation via mobile

Let’s compare desktop (top) vs. mobile (bottom) time-to-display performance from our sample.

Overall, there is a significant drop-off from desktop to mobile performance in our sample. It is typical for less powerful mobile devices to be slower than desktop, but it is crucial retailers close the gap. A surprising 85% of mobile users expect pages to load as fast or faster than on desktop!

It is hard work to engage mobile users and retailers must utilize every optimization available to them. Here’s just one example. The Vermont Teddy Bear Company has a neat function on their desktop app. A shopper can click image and it calls up a lightbox with 3-4 more images to display various value-add packages. This function does not exist on mobile, but the mobile application is still downloading all those image variations. Removing these images is an opportunity to pare down mobile app size. This is just one small example and a successful mobile-strategy needs to take advantage of every optimization available.

Valentine’s Day Lesson – Show Your Users Some Love:

Modern users are mobile-first and demand quick engagement across multiple devices. Any perception of latency will cause users to bounce and conversions rates to drop. We know this. Retailers are already familiar with traditional ways to improve user engagement and app performance.

Yet, this strategy falls short of modern user expectations. For true competitive differentiation, especially in a saturated and seasonal market like Valentine’s Day gifts, brands must fully understand the modern user. The means to win users over is through holistic user-centric solutions that plugs gaps in user experience and performance. Essentially, retailers must use everything at their disposal to make fickle users fall in love.

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