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The Need for Speed


Retailers are investing time and money to create online shopping experiences that mirror real-world retail environments. But they shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that just a few bumps in the road—from slow page loads to site availability—can deter shoppers from making a purchase or, even worse, encourage them to move on to a competitor.

Indeed, evidence is mounting that websites that take too long to load can result not only in negative brand perception and diminished goodwill, but a significant loss in overall sales. According to Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., the majority of U.S. consumers expect a Web site to load in less than three seconds and 47% expect it to take less than two seconds. Meanwhile, recent data from Lexington, Mass.-based Gomez—a Web performance solutions company—revealed that 39% of consumers believe speed is more important than functionality for most sites. More than a third (37%) said they would not return to a slow site, and 27 % would likely jump to a competitor’s site.

Given such statistics, more and more retailers are seeking out ways to enhance site speed and availability. The Finish Line, for example, reached out to Akamai Technologies, Cambridge, Mass., implementing the firm’s Dynamic Site Accelerator to improve its online customer experience by speeding up the performance and availability of its site.

“Our core consumer has an affinity for technology and spends a significant amount of time on the Internet,” explained Roger Underwood, senior VP e-commerce, technology and operations, Finish Line, Indianapolis. “Not only do we need to continuously update our site to ensure that our product catalog is featuring the most current styles, but we also must ensure that our site is loading fast.”

The Akamai solution has reduced the footwear retailer’s page loading times by an average 50%. It also has allowed Finish Line to offload some of its site dynamic content to the Akamai platform, freeing up the company’s servers and reducing downtime. The fact that Akamai handles site performance and availability issues for the chain is another bonus.

“Our team is free to concentrate on strategic initiatives designed to grow our e-commerce business,” Underwood said.

The bottom line: As e-commerce grows and attracts more competitors, reliable site performance will become even more important in order to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

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