UK high street stores failing online as Christmas shopping season begins

By Robert Castley

In the week between 15th November and 21st November, Keynote data showed that visitors were being left waiting far too long for homepages to load and were regularly suffering from pages loading incorrectly. Examples of poorly performing sites include the New Look homepage, which took on average 5.17 seconds to load, and the H&M homepage was only available 94.59 percent of the time on average.

Table: Full index of site homepages monitored


As a whole, the sites slowed by a quarter of a second on average this week compared to the previous one, which brought the average load time for all the sites monitored up to 3.45 seconds, well above the recommended two second best practice mark. In terms of reliability – the chances of a site loading correctly – the number of sites available more than 99 percent of the time fell from 16 out of 18 the previous week, to only 11 this week.

Sites of particular note included H&M which, although the homepage achieved the fastest load time at 0.96 seconds, struggled with ensuring the site appeared and functioned as it should, as its availability rate was the lowest of the table at 94.59 percent. It is worth noting, however, that this was a five percent increase in availability compared to the previous week. Other sites at risk of losing customers this week due to their online performance included; All Saints, which added 1.39 seconds to its average homepage load time and Uniqlo, which added 1.41 seconds.

It is worrying to see how poorly the online high street sites are coping as this year’s Christmas shopping season begins. We are repeatedly being told how this year will be the year for online shopping and, as many consumers turn to the web, it appears that they will be met by slowly loading, badly performing webpages. Certainly not the way to secure lucrative online custom.

The homepage is where first impressions are made and reputations are built. Here, speed and reliability are absolutely essential, as this will reassure the customer that they will have a good experience throughout the rest of their transaction. A good site will load its homepage in under two seconds and that homepage will load correctly more than 99 percent of the time. Next, Size and Zara have all proven this week that this isn’t impossible, but far more need to be delivering this level of performance.

With damning reports of the dying high street and the current poor performance of online stores, retailers are putting their survival on the line this Christmas. Not only will they fail to attract new online shoppers with poorly performing sites, but they risk losing those that first became loyal at their brick-and-mortar stores.

About the author

Robert Castley has been a solutions consultant at internet testing and monitoring specialist Keynote, for over three years. Prior to working at Keynote, Robert worked as a Professional Services Consultant at a document management company, Macro 4, where he worked on developing custom web interfaces. He regularly engages with customers and has an in-depth technical knowledge in web development. One of his proudest achievements is developing one of the world’s most popular Open Source Content Management Systems to the masses – Mambo, which now lives on as Joomla!

Robert is an authoritative spokesperson on web performance and regularly participates in industry events on the topic. Robert is passionate about the need to provide the optimum expe-rience for internet users, irrelevant of the device they are using. He advocates a ‘three screen approach’ that provides a consistent experience whether a website is being accessed via mobile, tablet or desktop computer.

Keynote Systems is the global leader in Internet and mobile cloud monitoring. It provides companies with solutions for continuously improving the online experience. Founded in 1995, Keynote provides testing, monitoring and measurement products and services for any enterprise including online portals, e-commerce sites, B2B sites, mobile operators and mobile infra-structure providers. Keynote products and services help companies improve customer experi-ence in four areas: Web performance, mobile quality, streaming and real user experience testing.  

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