In The M-Commerce Page Load World: Target, Sears Slow; Amazon, QVC Fast

As the percentage of shopping done through the small lens of a mobile phone soars, almost to the point of being meaningful, retailers should start to calculate page load time differently. For the first half of November—when Web performance tracking company Gomez took a look—Target, Buy.com, Sears and 1-800-Flowers had the most catch-up to do, while Amazon, QVC, Newegg and Overstock fared nicely.

The secret to the most successful mobile sites is pure simplicity, the lesson that Google's homepage tried teaching the industry. For example, I often find that Amazon's mobile app beats—with many seconds to spare—my much higher powered desktop riding over the same broadband connection looking at Amazon's Web site, so the idea that it would come out on top is not surprising. Making this accomplishment even more impressive, according to Gomez, is that—in general—chains' mobile site page load averages are more than "50 percent slower than the average response times" of those same chains' traditional Web sites.

Gomez, which tracked the top retailers from November 1 through November 15 looked at both availability (where the object of the game is to get as close to 100 percent as possible and where the average was 98.74 percent) and response time (where smaller numbers rule and where the average was 4.7 seconds). Amazon won in both categories, with a 99.86 percent availability rating and a 2.85 second response time. Indeed, the top three retailers in both categories were the same and in the same sequence: Amazon was first, followed by QVC (99.84 percent and 2.94 seconds) and Newegg (99.62 percent and 3.33 seconds).

Things got slightly more varied on the wrong side of the tracks performances, although three retailers (Buy.com, Sears and 1-800-Flowers) controlled the bottom rankings. In response time, the weakest four retailers were Target (6.96 seconds), Buy.com (6.22 seconds), Sears (6.07 seconds) and 1-800-Flowers (5.92 seconds). In availability, the weakest four were Buy.com (95.47 percent), Sears (96.28 percent), 1-800-Flowers (97.66 percent) and Target (98.17 percent).

Rounding out the list, for availability percent and response time: Overstock (99.49 percent and 3.36 seconds); Best Buy (99.46 percent and 3.44 seconds); Walmart (99.09 percent and 3.84 seconds); Victoria's Secret (99.25 percent and 4.93 seconds); Barnes and Noble (99.59 percent and 5.23 seconds); Nordstrom (98.95 percent and 5.44 seconds); and Musician's Friend (99.58 percent and 5.73 seconds).

To demonstrate that everything changes quickly in the mobile realm, Gomez looked at availability and response time again about two weeks later--during the post Thanksgiving sales insanity (November 27 through November 30)--and saw very different results. First, everybody's performance generally improved, with the 98.74 percent availability average improving to 99.51 percent and the 4.7 second response time average getting a boost to an average of 3.78 seconds.

Second, Amazon dropped way down in both categories and Best Buy shot way up (taking the number one position in both categories, with 100 percent availability and a 2.19 second response time). Newegg—number three during the initial review time—still did quite well, holding on to the same spot on both lists with 100 percent availability and a 2.49 second response time. Come to think of it, with 100 percent availability, Newegg really should be tied for first in availability, along with the four other retailers that scored 100 percent (Best Buy, Buy.com, Overstock and QVC).

The complete late November availability results, in order, were: BestBuy; Buy.com; Newegg; Overstock; QVC; Barnes & Noble (99.90 percent); Musician's Friend (99.90 percent); Target (99.90 percent); Amazon (99.81 percent); Nordstrom (99.81 percent); 1-800-Flowers (98.86 percent); Dell (98.66 percent); Walmart (98.16 percent) and Sears (98.08 percent).

The complete late November response time results, in order, were: Best Buy; QVC (2.2 seconds); Newegg (2.49 seconds); Overstock (2.67 seconds); Amazon (2.93 seconds); Walmart (3.23 seconds); Nordstrom (3.54 seconds); Barnes & Noble (4.21 seconds); Dell (4.35 seconds); 1-800-Flowers (4.55 seconds); Buy.com (4.61 seconds); Sears (4.9 seconds); Musician's Friend (5.11 seconds) and Target (5.95 seconds).

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