Mobile site load times are glacial, but Toolfetch is speeding things up

While many mobile retailers are losing sales to painfully slow loading times, industrial tool retailer Toolfetch's mobile home page is speeding past the competition, and holds some lessons for those who can keep up.

Toolfetch ended last month as the second fastest mobile home page in the Keynote Mobile Commerce Performance Index, trailing only Sears and sitting comfortably ahead of many other retail heavyweights. The digital-only retailer logged a response time of 3.75 seconds and a success rate of 99.32 percent.

That's in stark contrast to many other retailers, whose inability to implement a smooth experience on mobile devices is costing them big. UniteU, a digital commerce technologies company, tested 26 retailers' mobile sites at the 2014 Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition and found that 20 of their home pages took more than 13 seconds to load. The average was 25.75 seconds, more than 20 seconds longer than Keynote's maximum recommended time of 4.5 seconds. Product pages took even longer, averaging nearly 30 seconds to load.

UniteU CEO Souman Das laid out exactly what those extra seconds could be costing retailers by pointing out that a one-second delay is equivalent to a 7 percent loss in conversions. That means that the retailers in the test could improve mobile sales anywhere from 37 percent to over 300 percent, just by getting page load times down.

Toolfetch speeds up its load times by cutting down the clutter. Its home page has only 10 elements, half of Keynote's recommended 20 or fewer, and 'weighs' just 76 kilobytes, a fraction of the recommended 200 kilobytes.

But that isn't because the site is bare. Instead, it has to do with the way the site is coded. Toolfetch uses a method called Data Uniform Resource Identifier (Data URI) that allows site elements to be grouped together in the site code, rather than loaded separately from the server. That's a fancy way of saying the customer's browser only makes one trip to get everything it needs to load the site, vastly speeding up the process.

"We aimed to keep the homepage stripped down to the necessities," Andrew Brown, co-founder and CEO of Toolfetch told Internet Retailer. "This allows us to remove any unnecessary content like JavaScript/image calls to outside domains. Anything that is needed for our mobile homepage we have saved locally on our servers so that we can serve those files up from our domain."

The retooled site went live in July 2013, and Internet Retailer estimated Toolfetch saw a 130 percent increase in mobile sales over 2012.

For more:
-See this Internet Retailer story
-See this Internet Retailer story

Related stories:
Retailers aren't ready for Amazon's Fire Phone, and it could cost them
Mobile redirects reduce conversions
Google crackdown on bad redirects could impact two thirds of mobile retailers
Retailers' mobile Web page loading lags
Mobile shoppers aren't converting, but does it matter?