How Will Your Website Perform this Holiday Season?

For many retailers the holiday season has already started. Orders with suppliers have been placed. Catalogs are being printed. Preparations are underway to gear up the website. There will be new merchandise to show; more inviting ways to show it; and a more compelling shopping experience in which to buy it.

Most retailers, like businesses everywhere, want to make the most money they can. They measure their success against their historical performance, against the competition, and by total dollars. They wouldn’t use “good enough” as a business performance benchmark. So why use it as a website performance benchmark?

This holiday season, more than ever, how your website performs will have a huge impact on how your company performs. Holiday retail sales are expected to be up in 2012 by 3.5% to 4.0% over 2011 according to one survey.

More than ever, online stores will use multimedia and interactive technologies to let customer browse, compare, configure and in some cases even “try on” products prior to purchase. Retailers will deliver a greater mix of rich content (HTML 5, Java Script, Flash, Silverlight, etc.), from a more diverse combination of providers (product suppliers, ad networks, content distributors, etc.) over a broader range of end-user devices (desktops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) than ever before. And they’ll do it to deliver a first-rate user experience.

But how are most retailers setting their website performance targets? Take end-user response times. According to Forrester Research companies (retailers included) “aim for, and then reward, failure.” Rather than set targets like “our response times will never be longer than at the top five performing retailers,” they typically set a performance target just below where customers will notice. In other words, it’s ok not to be great.

That may explain why customers at almost 40% of the top 50 U.S. retailers saw response times longer than average for the group. Yet, on another ranking — website availability — just 10% of the top 50 were below average. Clearly, companies can do better when they want to — and when they know they need to. Usually a retailer doesn’t need any help knowing if its website goes down completely. But knowing that it is slower than the competition (and why) requires web monitoring tools and web performance benchmarks.

As William Sonoma proved last year, you don’t need to be a Wal-Mart or Apple to deliver retail’s best holiday web experience. What you do need are the right tools and information. Do you know what you need to know to be among retail’s industry leaders this year? Find out by registering for our webinar featuring Forrester analyst Mike Gualtieri, “10 Tips for Blazing Fast Web, Mobile and API Performance” July 25th at 1pm ET.

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