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Fashion sites struggle with Boxing Day traffic

By Retail Technology | Monday January 6 2014

The time taken for some websites of household names in UK fashion at the start of the post-Christmas sales suggest slow responses may have cost them dear

The latest findings of how well 18 popular UK fashion sites performed in the week before and after Christmas found that many Boxing Day sales shoppers experienced from slow, unresponsive pages.

According to monitoring carried out by mobile and internet cloud testing and monitoring provider Keynote, on the 26 December it was taking these sites 3.29 seconds to load on average. This is far longer than its recommended maximum of two seconds.

Site availability did not fare much better. An average of 97.08% successful load rate saw availability fall well below the ideal minimum of 99%. The provider suggested that some of this poor reliability may have been a result of changes to the sites overnight, from Christmas promotions to sales, but some sites did continue to suffer throughout the day. 

Retailers struggle under traffic load

Dorothy Perkins, for example, only had 50% availability at 11am and River Island dipped to 66.67 percent at midday. Keynote reported that All Saints, Burton, French Connection, Gap, Miss Selfridge, Monsoon, New Look, Next, Office, Size, TopMan, TopShop and Uniqlo, all had performance issues of some kind on Boxing Day.

Overall, the sites became faster during the week after Christmas compared to the week before – with 12 out of the 18 sites achieving faster response times – but they were less reliable. Only six out of the 18 retail sites secured a higher load success rate compared to the previous week. Across both weeks, H&M was the only site to achieve an availability score of 100% and keep its response time under one second.

“Boxing Day is a pivotal point for online retailers,” said Robert Castley, performance management expert at Keynote. “It is good to see that the sites are keeping pace with consumer demand by adapting their sites once Christmas Day is over, but they need to pay closer attention to ensuring a consistently good customer experience. 

"With the majority of sites failing to load as successfully as they did in the week before Christmas, consumers may have an easy choice when it comes to deciding where to, and where to not, online sales shop.”

Keeping pace with mobile adoption

Castley also suggested that the pressure sites seem to have felt on Boxing Day might also be an indication of changing consumer shopping trends. “In previous years, bargain hunters rushed to the shops on Boxing Day, but they may now be more likely to stay in the comfort of their own homes and shop from their computers or, perhaps, their new tablet,” he added. 

“This growing tendency to sales shop online could be a hugely lucrative opportunity for retailers. To take advantage of this, they must keep traffic volumes in mind when preparing their site for post-Christmas sales to ensure it can cope with the demand,” he advised.

Castley concluded: “Christmas is a testing time for retailers, but offering customers a reliable and fast experience will secure customer loyalty, not only during the festive season, but it could also have a real impact on retailers’ bottom line throughout the year.”
Compuware, another performance management company, warned in November that changing shopping habits could impact issues affecting the performance of retail websites over the key festive trading period.

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