By Daniel Hunter

The UK’s 50 busiest online retailers exhibited poor website performance in quarter two (Q2), as consumers had to put up with a slower and less responsive shopping experience.

The findings come from NCC Group’s quarterly online retail report, which analyses the average download speed and uptime of the UK’s 50 busiest retail websites.

The financial performance of the UK e-tail market has been largely positive in Q2 2013, with shoppers spending 18.3% more in June compared to 2012. However, this report indicates that it could have been a more successful quarter if retailers had prioritised consumer experience through web performance.

“The better experience customers have, the more they are likely to spend. Online retailers can’t have a smiling sales assistant greeting shoppers at the door, instead they must make sure their website performs well," Bob Dowson, director of NCC Group’s website performance division said.

Average download speed came in at 6.7 seconds (2Mbps connection). This is longer than 6.27 seconds recorded in Q1 and well short of the 3 second target that most e-tailers aim for. Longer load times than 3 seconds have been shown to drive customers to other sites.

Website downtime ­ when a site is inaccessible to users ­ also jumped up, with the top 50 averaging a downtime of 4 hours and 17 minutes, compared with 3 hours 23 minutes last quarter.

“It’s a worrying trajectory and one that retailers need to address quickly. If a website is slow to load, consumers will simply go elsewhere, while any downtime will lead to a direct loss of sales," Dowson continued.

“The potential within the online retail space is massive. In 2012 the value of online retail to the UK was £78 billion, and that’s only going to grow. Retailers that prioritise their website performance will put themselves in a great position to fulfil their potential in the market.”

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