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What Does One Extra ‘Nine’ Mean to Your Bottom Line?

By Aaron Rudger | December 4, 2013

CATEGORIES: Web Performance

When talking about website performance, we often talk in terms of “Nines” and 90% availability is one nine. 99% is two. 99.9% is Three… etc, etc. When it comes to online retailers, a difference of one nine can mean a major difference to your bottom line.

IBM Sales Chart

According to a lightning fast analysis of Cyber Monday sales released by IBM yesterday, “Cyber Monday wrapped up with 20.6 % growth in record online retail sales over 2012 and remains the biggest online shopping day of the year.” The report went on to say that mobile traffic grew to 31.7 percent of all online traffic, an increase of 45 percent over 2012, with mobile sales exceeding 17 percent of total online sales -- an increase of 55.4 percent over last year. And while Smartphones drove 19.7 percent of all online traffic, compared to tablets at 11.5 percent, tablets drove 11.7 percent of all online sales, more than 2X that of smartphones, which accounted for 5.5 percent. All these numbers point to the fact that 2013 is set to be the biggest year yet for online holiday shopping and not just on the desktop, but across all three screens.

It was recently estimated that Amazon loses $66,240 per minute of downtime. Other sources put the losses incurred during its recent, widely-reported outage at more than $4.7 Million over the course of 45 minutes of downtime. And this was on a normal Monday afternoon. What would the impact have been if this had happened on Cyber Monday when, according to a press release issued by Adobe, it was estimated that online retailers recorded a phenomenal $2.29 Billion in sales?! However you crunch the numbers, if you are an online retailer it is abundantly clear that site performance must be a mission critical concern every day of the year but especially during the holiday season. And not just for your flagship desktop site, but across all three screens.

This holiday season, Keynote is tracking the end-to-end shopping experience across desktop, tablet and smartphone screens. This measures transaction speeds, not just home pages, to see how fast a consumer can purchase an item from the site, and compares that speed across the three different devices. The sites we are monitoring are: Amazon, Apple Store, Best Buy, CDW, Dell, HP, Newegg, Office Depot, Office Max, Overstock, Sears, Sony Styles and Walmart.

After seeing a consistent level of performance from top Internet retailers over the holiday weekend, on Monday we began to see some minor hiccups. HP’s desktop site experienced some performance issues, with the site experiencing a slowdown during the Search process and the Add to Cart steps. We also saw the same issues on the HP smartphone site (Search and Cart) with most of the slowdown taking place during the Search process and the Add to Cart steps. Sony Style’s desktop site also had a major performance slowdown from about 10:00 AM Pacific until about 2:00 PM Pacific. Best Buy’s tablet performance began having a very high error rate on Monday morning and on into the afternoon due to timeouts related to loading a desktop-optimized site over 3G (a common issue with tablet sites that are often optimized for use over WiFi connections).

Among this past weekend/Cyber Monday’s top performers: the Apple Store was rocking and rolling with no slowdowns and 100% uptime on its desktop site (is it a coincidence that AAPL was up to its YTD high on Wednesday as its opening holiday sales results started to be noticed?). Amazon was also performing at very high levels with 100% availability on the desktop. On Cyber Monday, CDW was the best performing smartphone site with consistently fast load times and close to 99% availability.

Desktop Black Friday thru Cyber Monday Guide Guide

Overall, retailers seem to have gotten the memo. Performance matters. Our year-over-year data indicate that online retailers’ site performance has improved across the board and across all three screens. If online retailers want to continue to reap the benefits of this record-breaking holiday shopping season they must continue to pay attention, and make the necessary investments, to ensure the highest levels of performance (remember the Nines??) -- on their desktop, mobile and tablet sites.

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