10 Cyber Monday Site Speed Winners - InformationWeek
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10 Cyber Monday Site Speed Winners

J. C. Penney and Apple offered the fastest customer response on traffic-heavy shopping day, according to Compuware's Gomez, dethroning 2010 winner Dell.

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A 19% increase in online sales on Cyber Monday found some retailers better prepared than others for the shopper onslaught. Only Dell, among the top website-performing retailers of last year, made it onto this year's top five list, and it slipped from number one to number four, according to Compuware's Gomez performance monitoring service.

This year's retail website with the best user-response time was J. C. Penney, followed by Apple, said Compuware in a Thursday announcement. Symantec, supplier of anti-virus software, was third; Dell, fourth; and Abercrombie and Fitch, fifth.

The top five last year were Dell, fashion and electronics site QVC, home furnishings supplier Williams Sonoma, Sears, and Office Depot. Each year, the Gomez performance tracking service pings 50 top retailers' sites and measures response times on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the biggest shopping days of the year.

Other retailers in this year's top 10 included: Saks Fifth Avenue, sixth; Macy's, seventh; Best Buy, eighth; L.L.Bean, ninth; and Overstock, tenth.

[Want to better understand how performance monitoring with "synthetic" transactions works? See How Fast Is Your Mobile App? Gomez Knows]

In general, faster page download times and transaction execution times lead to fewer frustrated shoppers and more sales. "These retailers invested in the people, technology, and best practices" to deliver top performance, said John Van Siclen, general manager of Compware's Application Performance Management business unit, in the announcement of its tracking results.

Van Siclen said the average page download still took slightly over 10 seconds. Compuware's Gomez Performance Index page says shoppers prefer a two-second download, and will tolerate up to eight seconds without complaint, but become frustrated at more than eight seconds.

Compuware analyzed the sites that performed best and found they put little third-party functionality, such as user tracking, on their pages that would slow down their site's operation. They limited the number of images per page, and relied on lightweight JavaScript for active items on the page. They also used static images downloaded from a separate content delivery service, which could keep frequently used images in cache memory for faster response times.

The sites that performed less well in some cases relied on pages overloaded with too much content, which made them cumbersome to serve. They made extensive use of third party plug-ins, such as ad services, social networks, or user tracking. Their JavaScript programming attempted to do too many heavyweight things to supply active elements. Their pages also relied on too many single-resource domains to pull together all the needed elements on the page. In some cases, the single-resource domain, such as an ad service, had a long connect time.

The fast response and fast transaction execution performers, said Van Siclen, "made the most of this year's increased traffic." IBM said Tuesday that its Coremetrics unit and Smarter Commerce Initiative tracked the amount of online spending associated with Cyber Monday to come up with the 19% increase figure.

Apply advanced analytics to the sales pipeline, Web traffic, and social buzz to anticipate what’s coming, instead of just looking at the past. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A practical guide to biometrics. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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