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Four Trends Threaten Fast Websites in Apparel Retail

Apparel eCommerce shoppers expect fast websites.  Which is why 4 of the top 10 fastest retail websites are fashion and apparel retailers.  But recent changes in online shopping behavior will make it harder to deliver that fast website experience.  That’s a key finding from the 2017 Fashion Shopping Focus Report released this month.  

How should retailers respond?  The report offers some good recommendations.  However, we advise retailers to consider the impact on website speed before attempting these at home.

Winning the Apparel eCommerce Shopper

The report found that apparel eCommerce shoppers exhibit very unique shopping behavior relative to other retail segments.  Here’s what the report revealed:

(1) Product Detail Pages (PDPs) are the new entry point:  30% of fashion shoppers enter apparel sites at the PDP.  This is likely due to the growing importance of social channels and posted PDP links.  And 47% of all visits eventually end up at a PDP.  As a result, the PDP experience must be rich, fast and immediately engaging.

(2) Keep it fresh:  66% of shoppers said they were more likely to visit a website with new products, a behavior unique to fashion retail.  In line with this behavior, the number of unique products offered by apparel retailers grew by 15% over the last two years.

(3) Richer PDPs are better:  The most successful PDPs have the richest features – reviews, recommendations, and color swatches are specifically called out.  The best retailers will need to manage relationships with a wide array of 3rd party application providers to deliver these features.

(4) Mobile is the new standard:  The numbers don’t lie – 56% of apparel shoppers come from a mobile device, as well as 36% of orders.  PDPs must present well on these devices, and load quickly to cater to the lower attention spans of these buyers.

How do these eCommerce trends impact website speed?

Research shows that slow website pages (>3s to load) hurt SEO rankings, bounce rates, and conversion rates.  Unfortunately, the trends highlighted in the report present significant challenges for delivering a fast website.  Here’s why:

PDPs are difficult to keep fast
PDPs are notoriously difficult to optimize for performance.  PDPs are always being added and removed, and have a high number of rich images and features (powered by 3rd party services).  Making matters worse, a typical site may have hundreds or thousands of PDPs.  If you have a developer manually optimizing these pages, keeping up with changes is almost impossible.  Which is probably why the average retail PDP is at least 10% slower than the home page, as reported in the Retail Systems Research (RSR) eCommerce Performance Report.

Rich features require 3rd parties
The most compelling features usually require the integration of 3rd party javascript tags into your site.  Each of these tags represents a potential point of failure that could create page load delays.  A delay from one faulty 3rd party tag can easily negate all expected returns from your carefully designed experience.

Mobile needs its own approach
Mobile devices present a wide degree of variability in screen size, processing power, and network connection.  This variability is a frequent source of page load delays.  And although RWD has made it easier to build for small screens, the larger RWD file sizes create additional page delays.  Mobile users are the most sensitive to delays, and more likely to abandon a slow website.

What’s the best performance optimization strategy?

You can wow your fashion shopper, but you can’t ignore website speed in the process.  A scalable and coordinated website optimization approach is required for retailers that want to keep their websites fast.  Fortunately, advances in cloud based website acceleration technology (like Yottaa) make this easy to do. 

This holiday season, make sure you have a performance optimization approach that accelerates every page, regardless of how rapidly they change, or how many features you cram in.  If you don’t, you may end up with the coolest website that no one ever sees.  

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