Consumers are becoming increasingly less willing to wait for pages to load on e-commerce sites, despite the addition of more rich features such as video, zoom and animated content.  Today’s online shoppers expect sites to be faster than ever.  Consumer Spending logo

While most online shoppers said in a 2006 survey they would wait 4 seconds for a site to load, when the survey was repeated this summer 47% said they grow impatient when web pages take more than 2 seconds to load.

The least patient are those who shop the most: 61% of those who spend more than $1,500 a year online rated response time as important in determining where they shop, versus 52% for all shoppers, according to the survey by research and consulting firm Forrester Research Inc. and Akamai Technologies Inc.

However, according to Mike Gualtieri, senior analyst at Forrester, improvements in technology are allowing proactive companies to improve site performance.

With the approaching holiday season sure to dramatically increase traffic to e-commerce sites, here are five tips for improving site performance:

Cache Information

Sophisticated e-retail platforms can cache commonly requested content.  The modern web browsers consumers use now also have considerable caching resources that can speed response times.  Browsers can store commonly used elements of a web page, such as the logos that appear on every page, so they don’t have to be downloaded when the consumer moves to a new page.  Another common form of caching is to store frequently requested content in the servers of content delivery networks.

Cut out the fat

When it comes to site performance, every byte counts: the fewer bytes servers have to deliver, the faster a page will load.  Retailers can thin down pages by being smarter about how they employ JavaScript, a programming language that site operators use for web tasks like rotating an item or validating a ZIP code, and style sheets, which control the look of a site.

Find the best route

Retailers often have several connections from their data centers to the web so they can keep operating if one fails and so they can use lower-cost connections whenever possible.  Consider using a device such as a PowerLink 100 Pro, which routes traffic to the resource that offers the best performance at any time.  Besides maximizing performance, the device can also prevent site failures.

Tweak the weakest link

Many retailers test their sites in advance of the holiday season by simulating the load that many individuals accessing the site simultaneously create. But concurrent users isn’t necessarily the key metric for every retailer.  It’s also important to test a site with a realistic mix of the actions consumers initiate at a site, such as browsing, searching and purchasing

Test until it breaks

A site crash is usually a disaster, but some large retail chains intentionally crash their sites in the months leading up to the holiday season. They just do it in the middle of the night when few people shop.  The point is to understand the capacity of the site, and to make sure crucial features will stand up to heavy loads.