Whether it was browsing, researching or buying, mobile’s massive contribution to Black Friday sales –a jump in digital sales of 24%, according to Salesforce, with 60% of online traffic and 42% of sales coming from mobile devices — proves the pivotal importance of having a mobile website that captures attention and drives conversions.
Opportunities to cash in on how users find businesses and offers is huge, but the bigger question is: what do marketers *really* need to do to deliver consumers a mobile experience they can’t resist? Some helpful guidance comes from Google in Germany, which last week took the wraps off its first Mobile Speed Leaderboards report developed with MMA Germany (the local council of the Mobile Marketing Association) and revealed the list of websites (belonging to top-notch brands operating in the country) that are literally leading the pack.
So, what distinguishes leaders from the also-rans? In a word: speed.
Last year Google delivered the industry a wake-up call with results that showed over half (53%) of consumers abandon mobile websites that take longer than three seconds to load. This year Google is going one better, providing a new benchmark for fast mobile loading times.
The leaderboards — based on the top 400 retail and travel websites provided by the major German consumer research firm GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumgüter) and performance metrics from open source measurement tool provider Webpagetest.org — draw on two key user-centric metrics to rank websites. These are Speed Index, or the time it takes to fully display a page, and First Interactive, or the time it takes for the user to be able to view and interact with a website.
“Both of these metrics are imperative for a good user experience and are therefore useful for evaluating the performance of a mobile website,” observes Dominik Wöber, Head of Performance Sales, Central Europe at Google. The aim, he tells me, is to provide a new benchmark for fast mobile loading times, “one that will spur companies to meet and exceed the general user expectation of a load time of three seconds.” There are also plans to extend the leaderboard to other industries and countries to provide these metrics on a regular basis.
“53 percent of users leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. The leaderboard shows that leading companies have long recognized the significance of high-speed mobile websites. With loading times of seven to eleven seconds for the visual section of a website, most German companies are lagging far behind the user expectation of three seconds.”
Dominik Wöber, Head of Performance Sales, Central Europe at Google
Companies in the mobile fast lane
The winners’ circle lists the top five fastest websites across 12 categories of retail and travel.
They include bonprix.de, the mobile online fashion and apparel shop belonging to Bonprix Handelsgesellschaft, a subsidiary of German commerce giant Otto Group, that takes 2.7 seconds to load (stealing the lead on Amazon, that comes in at fourth place), and flug24.de, a portal where consumers can find and book last-minute flights. (For the complete list of companies check out this interactive infographic from Google.)
Earlier Google research conducted by website testing company SOASTA pointed out that decreasing load speeds by just one second can boost conversions by nearly 27%. It’s a data point Bonprix has baked into its corporate DNA. “For us, performance tuning is a central task in e-commerce,” Karsten Uhlig, Bonprix Vice President E-Commerce & Business Intelligence, said in a statement. “Minimizing loading times is thus a permanent, process-related challenge, and requires constant focus across departments and responsibilities.” Speed is the North Star metric that defines success and confirms the company’s strategy to invest in the “performance [of our shop] right from the beginning.”
But not all companies have followed this approach.
“Speed Index is the decisive KPI for the ranking in the leaderboard, but the majority of companies are still lagging far behind the user expectation of three seconds,” Google’s Wöber explains. With loading times of 7–11 seconds for the visual section of a mobile website alone, it’s clear a large number of companies have a long way to go.
“It is our pleasure to publish these leaderboards together with Google, especially because many German companies have caught on to the importance of mobile capabilities and observed their increased impact on their business. Mobile loading time is one of the most important factors for mobile success. Studies have shown that a speed increase of just one second is enough to increase revenue by up to 20 percent.”
Mark Wächter, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Mobile Marketing Association, Germany
Optimizing for consumer connection and conversions
Fortunately, there are many ways to optimize mobile websites by removing what can drain performance. Images can slow down loading times, render-blocking scripts can prevent a website from being displayed quickly, and re-directs can waste time (and consumers’ patience if they don’t point to a mobile website (instead of a desktop destination). Malte Ubl, Senior Staff Engineer & AMP Engineering lead at Google, recommends companies explore ways to “cut down on unnecessary re-directions and boost weight-trimming measures.” (Best practice is to make sure total weight of the website is 500 KB or under.)
“There are often many ways to optimize the speed of a mobile website. A good place to start is to look at the images that slow down the loading time of the visual section as well as any render-blocking scripts — i.e. scripts that prevent a website from being displayed quickly — ‘weight-trimming’ measures and unnecessary redirections.”
Malte Ubl, Senior Staff Software Engineer & AMP Engineering Lead at Google
Mobile websites benefit from how consumers search, find and interact with content and companies. Mobile website landing pages are the lead capture pages that power the campaign call-to-action. An increasing body of research shows both must meet customer expectations for speed and demand for an amazing experience.
COMPLETE MOBILE SPEED LEADERBOARDS
“To be awarded for the fastest mobile homepage in the category ‘General Merchandise / Department Stores’ is an enormous success for us. Performance has already been a strong focus during our relaunch (June 2017), but we are still working on improvements in our day-to-day business. More than 60% of our visitors now come via mobile devices. For this reason, no sprint in our team ends without tickets for performance optimization. We want to create a compelling customer experience and avoid stress for him.”
- Gregor Frey, Abteilungsleiter Tech Lab Management, Sportscheck
“A speed index of 4.9 seconds and thus also being among the top 5 in this segment is something special, only far from our goal (less than or equal to 3 seconds) what we have set ourselves. The speed of our online presence is one of the most important KPIs that we follow on a daily basis and will continue to optimize over the next few days, weeks, months and years. In the end, however, it’s all about the balance between speed/quality/quantity/sale, and this is completely focused on our customers. In daily business, the focus is therefore on the above-mentioned balance and the use of new technologies. Our goal is not primarily to reduce content, but rather to deal with it correctly, regardless of whether it is desktop, mobile, app, terminals, etc.”
- Johannes Ridinger, Senior Director eCommerce, Conrad Electronic SE
“If the shop is slow, the customer is gone and the page ranking is bad. At the online retailer buecher.de, this applies in particular to the rapidly growing mobile sector and its performance. It is important to carry out objective benchmarking with suitable tools on a regular basis, to identify approaches for optimizations and to verify them by means of tests”.
- Günter E. Hilger, Managing Director of buecher.de GmbH & Co. KG
“Page Speed has absolute priority in terms of UX optimization at Gourmondo.de. So we are very pleased with the result of the Speed Leaderboard. Our goal is to improve loading times in order to meet the increasing user expectations. Our customers usually buy several products in one order and therefore access numerous category, search results and product detail pages in their sessions. Improvements in loading times have a major impact on the conversion rate.”
- Gernot Knefz, Head of Marketing, Gourmondo.de