Web Performance Benchmark: Systemax Climbs 11 Spots to #1 Most Reliable Online Retailer in Q3
Develop | Posted October 21, 2011

Systemax, which ranked as last quarter's fastest online retailer, retained the title in Q3, even slightly improving its website speed. On average, Systemax.com users had to wait a mere 0.62 seconds for the site to load, down from 0.64 seconds in Q2, and a big improvement over the site's 1.77 second response time in Q3 of last year.

More impressive, however, was the site's leap to the top of the availability chart. In Q3, Systemax climbed 11 spots into the number one position for availability. Combined with its superior response time, Systemax's 99.97 percent availability earned the retailer recognition as the overall best performing site in the third quarter.

Also appearing in the top three for both Web performance metrics were Dell and Avon. Avon was the second fastest site, with an average 0.89 second response time. Dell came in third at 1.60 seconds.

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The two companies flip-flopped spots on the reliability chart. Dell tied Systemax for first place with 99.97 percent availability. Avon came in a very close third, delivering 99.96 percent availability throughout the quarter.

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With the holidays approaching, many retailers will likely be launching new promotions and advertising campaigns and making changes to their websites, adding functionality or enhancing their design, in hopes of providing a sleeker and better user experience.

However, a couple incidents we recorded during Q3 should caution online retailers against making design or infrastructure upgrades without taking into account, or testing, their effect on website performance. For example,

  • On July 12, Neiman Marcus updated its website, slowing site responsiveness by more than two seconds.
  • On July 15, Nordstrom updated its site. The change drove average response times up from three seconds to over 12, where they remained for the rest of the quarter.

Is a two second delay in load time noticeable to customers? Will it deter sales or drive down revenue? TRAC Research says yes. But it's up to individual retailers to decide how much speed or performance they're willing to sacrifice during an upgrade.

One final interesting point to note ... In mid-September, Target's website experienced prolonged performance issues when the launch of its Missoni for Target line brought an overwhelming and unexpected number of shoppers to the site. Though the site experienced a few days of intermittent availability and slow load times, it delivered above-average availability for the quarter as a whole.

To compile the Web Performance Index for Retail, SmartBear Software uses AlertSite to monitor the home pages of these sites from 12 U.S. locations, every five minutes between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. EDT. Measurements were taken between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2011.