By Max Clarke

Poor performance among the UK’s top online retailers' websites saw them near decline in the last quarter, bucking a long-term trend of strong growth in the sector.

These are the findings of the latest Site Confidence Quarterly Online Retail Report, published by Site Confidence, an NCC Group company. The research found that the UK’s top 50 online retailers had an average of 3 hours 41 minutes of downtime in the second quarter of 2011, a 35% increase on the first quarter of the year.

The report analysed website performance from leading online retailers from 1st April to 30th June. It also analysed average download speeds for the UK’s top e-tailer websites and found an increase from 12 seconds in the first quarter of the year to 12.5 seconds in quarter two. This is a marked increase from e-tailers’ 6 second target and also from the 10 second average download speed recorded over the 2010 festive period.

“At a time when high street shops are closing and retailers are shifting the balance of operations to the internet due to its lower overheads,” said Bob Dowson, director at Site Confidence, part of NCC Group, ”it is imperative that existing e-tailers pay close attention to website performance in order to maximise on this opportunity.

“The increasing competition online also makes a smooth and straightforward user journey increasingly important to keep customers from going elsewhere. It is therefore very worrying to see the performance of the UK’s top retailers in decline.

“With download speeds more than double the retail target and the worst offending sites suffering almost 3 days of downtime, this could be equating to significant lost revenue for businesses that, in the current economy, need to make every penny count.

“Load testing and performance monitoring should not just be carried out for the festive period or peaks of activity. For any business whose website plays a significant role in revenue generation, there should be a programme of repeated testing and 24 hour a day monitoring to ensure that the customer experience is as straightforward as possible and that any problems are dealt with before they impact on the bottom line.”


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