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Mobile eCommerce Performance: 5 Lessons from RSR Report

The coming holiday season is destined to break records again in terms of eCommerce sales from mobile devices. Your retail holiday sales could hinge on your mobile eCommerce performance – how easily mobile shoppers can convert in the moment. Is your mobile eCommerce website ready?

Retail Systems Research (RSR) analyzed mobile eCommerce performance in their recent report, 2018 eCommerce Website Performance: The Stakes Are Increasing, But Are Retailers Falling Behind? Digging into the data behind the report, we uncovered new insights about how large retailers are managing their mobile eCommerce performance. Here’s what we found.

2018 RSR Report: Plan to Wait for Mobile eCommerce Website Pages

What does the RSR Report tell us about the state of mobile shopping today? We learned that Edible Arrangements and 1-800 CONTACTS are killing it. They ranked as the fastest mobile eCommerce sites in the study. Even better, they did so without sacrificing any features from the desktop versions of their sites.

Webinar Event: Learn more about how 1-800 CONTACTS made their site so fast from their Sr. Director of Software Engineering in the RSR Webinar on Aug. 15. Click here to register.

But how did the other mobile websites fare? We dove into the report’s underlying data to confirm and expand on their findings. Here are 5 discoveries about mobile eCommerce performance you need to know before the holidays.

5 Insights into Mobile eCommerce Performance and Speed

1. Mobile eCommerce websites have surprisingly great features

Before opening the report, we assumed that most mobile eCommerce sites would have fewer features than their desktop versions. Mobile users are much more sensitive to website performance. So, we thought retailers would remove heavier features that would lead to slower eCommerce performance.

Much to our surprise, RSR found just the opposite. Almost all the mobile eCommerce sites in the report demonstrated close parity with the features found on their desktop versions. Apparently eCommerce teams are not willing to sacrifice functionality for their mobile shoppers. That being said, we did find that some of the fastest eCommerce sites (Chewy, Musician’s Friend,, iHerb, Restoration Hardware, and U.S. Auto Parts Network) did remove several 3rd party features from their mobile experiences.

2. Mobile eCommerce websites are “embarrassingly slow” 

eCommerce teams may be including more features, but that choice may be hurting mobile eCommerce performance and speed. The study found that desktop sites were 35% faster than their mobile versions. This is a dangerous finding, considering how sensitive mobile shoppers are to small delays in the experience. A 2016 study by Google found that 53% of mobile visitors will leave a web page after waiting 3 seconds for a page to load.  

3. 3rd party apps dominate mobile page load times

The case against 3rd party features and their assault on page load times grows stronger as we dig deeper into the study. For half of the mobile eCommerce sites studied, 75% or more of page load times were attributed to 3rd party features. The same thing can be said for only a third of desktop sites.

4. Delays from 3rd party features are higher on mobile eCommerce websites 

Across all sites analyzed, delays from 3rd party features were 17% higher on mobile eCommerce websites. There is strong evidence that 3rd party feature parity between the desktop and mobile websites comes with a cost. It’s great that you want an equally feature-rich experience for your mobile shoppers. However, you need to take the extra steps necessary to make sure these features don’t slow down mobile eCommerce performance. Most of the retailers in the study have not done this sufficiently.

5. Still waiting for the PWA explosion

Of the 80 mobile experiences studied, only three retailers had deployed a single page or progressive web application (PWA). Almost all mobile sites in the study were developed using responsive web design. The three mobile sites developed using PWAs only returned average mobile eCommerce performance scores.

We’ve written about the relatively low return from building PWAs, given the technologies readily available to optimize responsive websites. It’s unclear whether or not retailers are furiously building PWAs behind the scenes. Perhaps they are busy optimizing their responsive mobile sites for holiday shoppers. We will probably have to wait until January to draw more solid conclusions about the future of PWAs.

Improving Mobile eCommerce Performance for Holiday Shoppers

Concerned that a slow mobile eCommerce website is going to ruin your eCommerce sales this holiday season? There is still time to fix it. Read our blog posts, 3 Keys to Fast Mobile eCommerce Websites and 6 Reasons Google AMP is not Great for eCommerce Websites for ideas on how you can accelerate your mobile pages before November.

Spoiler alert: you don’t have to rip out your 3rd party features or trim the quality of your high res images. You’ll find that there are readily available technologies and best practices that can help you control your 3rd party applications and minimize page load delays.

Whether you are managing a single page app or a responsive site, you should start investigating ways to improve site speed now – especially mobile eCommerce performance. Otherwise, your holiday success may hinge on whether your customers are willing to wait until they get home to start their holiday shopping.

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