1 WEB AND MOBILE SITE PERFORMANCE PRIMER FOR BUSINESS MANAGERS Response time. Web site availability. Mobile application performance. Upon hearing these terms you might assume they re the sole responsibility of your IT department. Yet the impact of web and mobile performance on your business results is so critical and becoming more so that business managers must actively partner in the process of optimizing the speed and availability of your online properties. The migration of business revenue from physical stores and call centers to web and mobile platforms is staggering. By 2015, $278 billion will be spent online, an increase of 57 percent from 2010 s total, according to Forrester Research. 1 This enormous growth, spawned by faster Internet service and compelling new computing devices such as tablets and smartphones, has raised your customers performance expectations. This is all happening at the same time that web application delivery is getting more complex due to multiple browsers, the mobile app explosion and customers using a variety of devices at multiple locations with differing connection types. Keep up with the expectations of your customers and you ll enhance your brand and increase revenue. Fall behind, and you risk losing out to your competition. Whether they are buying products or viewing content, both business and consumer customers are becoming more speed-obsessed and demanding fast and fully available web and mobile pages or apps. Gone is the eight-ond rule of a decade ago, a guideline of how long someone would wait for a web page to load. Today s audiences expect a two-ond page load, down from four onds in 2006, according to a Forrester-Akamai study. 2 End-user expectations will only increase. This paper is written for business managers and executives as a must-read primer on web and mobile performance. We outline best practices based upon a decade of experience helping companies achieve business results by meeting the performance expectations of web and mobile customers. They are: 1. Represent the voice of the customer (and their experience on your web and mobile site) with your IT partners. 2. Understand the impact that site design and marketing promotions have on performance. Figure 1: Online customers are getting increasingly impatient with slow performance. The good news: They will reward web sites and apps that load quickly. 3. Benchmark to ensure customer expectations are met. 4. Establish shared goals, metrics and actions. 5. Aim for continuous improvement Forrester Research, ecommerce Web Site Performance Today white paper August 2009
2 WHAT IS PERFORMANCE ANYWAY, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER? When we talk about web or mobile performance, we mean the technical capability of a web-based element a web page, a mobile web page, or a dedicated application to be fully available for critical business transactions and to load at speeds that meet a customer s expectations consistently, during peak periods, at all times of the day and across all geographies. Compare this to equivalent metrics for a brick and mortar store or a physical business location: Will your customers wait if your store doesn t open when you say it will? Will they wait in long checkout lines (response time) to the point of frustration? What if an entire department just shuts down temporarily? The answer is a resounding no. This is exactly what occurs online when web or mobile site response time and availability lag behind your customers expectations. The correlation between page load times and sales conversions is a solid one: Make your customers wait and sales will suffer. Speed things up, and you will have an opportunity to grow revenue. Compuware conducted a study of the impact of performance on conversions, tallying over three million page views for 33 retailers. The results: If your page load time is eight onds and you can improve it to two onds, your conversion rate increases by 74 percent. Whether at an actual business location or online, the quality of the customer experience is a major revenue driver. Put simply, performance is a fundamental measuring yardstick for the customer experience online. Figure 2: Want to increase sales conversions in a provable, measurable way? Speed up the performance of your web properties. CORE PERFORMANCE METRICS EXPLAINED How Fast? Response Time: Measured in onds, this is the end-to-end time required to download every component of the web or mobile page or the time required to process a business transaction such as making a stock trade or reviewing checking account balances. Lower is better. How Often Available? Availability: Measured as a percentage, this shows how often the online application can successfully complete the page load or transaction for the time period specified. Higher is better. How Consistent? Consistency: Measured in onds, this is a cumulative average of many response time measurements. It shows how consistent the response time is over many visits, at multiple times of day and from many geographies. Lower is better.
3 LEADERS AND LAGGARDS A quick review of the performance of major companies on the Gomez Benchmarks web site reveals a wide gap between the leaders and laggards. You may notice brand name sites with 96 or 97 percent availability or average response times of six or more onds. While these numbers may seem competitive, they are far from it. The leaders are at more than 99 percent availability and show response times near two onds, and these companies are working hard to shave millionds off those times. The lesson learned: A company can create competitive advantage through better performance. The impact goes beyond sales. With stellar performance, the full benefit of online efficiency is realized. When things online go awry, associated costs will rise if, for example, customers are forced to contact the call center for assistance. Even more beneficial, or damaging, is the impact to your brand. Today s consumers, especially the demographic, were raised on the web and know which sites are the best performers and which are not. They will remember the laggards. More importantly, they will not recommend your web or mobile site if frustrated. Figure 3: The quality of the customer s experience is a core business driver. In the online world, web and mobile performance (speed, availability and reliability) is a fundamental component of that experience. THE FUTURE: MORE CHALLENGES AHEAD As challenging as web site performance can be, it will only get more difficult in the years to come. There are two main reasons: User performance expectations will increase while, simultaneously, web sites and mobile applications will become more complex. The growing user expectations are revealed in consumer surveys by Equation Research, conducted first in 2009 and again in U.S. consumers were asked how quickly they expect a web site accessed on a mobile phone to load compared to the load time on their desktop or laptop PC. The percentage who answered almost as fast/just as fast /or faster rose from 58 percent to 71 percent in just that two-year period. One could argue those expectations are unreasonable due to the variables of wireless carrier signals and pressures on bandwidth caused by the growth of mobile devices. Regardless, this is what the customer wants. One can only guess how fast your audience will expect a web page or application to load in the next two years. The answer is sure to be: faster. QUESTION: Compared to web sites that you access from your home computer or laptop, how quickly do you expect web sites to finish loading on your mobile phone? 2011: 71% 2009: 58% Base: 2009 (N=1,001) 2011 (N=1,001) Faster on my phone Just as quickly on my phone Almost as quickly on my phone A bit slower Much slower on my phone Figure 4: Consumers expect web sites to load almost as fast on their mobile phone as on their home computer, and their expectations are increasing, rising from 58 to 71 percent between 2009 and % 7% 11% 22% 25% 21% 24% 25% 22% 31%
4 GROWING COMPLEXITY The next significant challenge is the growing complexity of today s web sites. Not only are the sites becoming more complex, but the path from the host server to what the users see in their browsers is itself becoming more complicated. In the early days of the web, sites were simple: some text and a few graphics, with few, if any, applications found within. Today s web audiences expect rich graphics, audio and video components, easy checkout functions, complex games or multiple-step applications. While people visit different sites for different reasons, most companies within each industry are competing and differentiating by offering more features. All of these added features can slow down response times. WEB APPLICATION DELIVERY TO BROWSER Figure 5: Most of today s web applications are assembled in the browser, making managing site performance more complex. DELTA AIR LINES: LESSONS FROM A BEST OF THE WEB REPEAT GOLD WINNER Achieving superior performance consistently is an accomplishment. The Compuware Gomez Best of the Web awards acknowledge the top performing companies measured over an entire year. Delta Air Lines won this award in its category for the past two years, and accomplished this in the midst of a major web site redesign. How Delta s e-commerce and IT teams worked together offers a valuable lesson, and its redesign challenge was one faced by many companies: balancing the desire for refreshed graphics and new features while still maintaining customer-friendly response times. With 450 million web site visits yearly, and over a million to mobile devices, the company had to get it right. How they did it reads like a textbook of best practices: They continuously measured site performance and benchmarked against their competition in the travel industry. They engaged the technical teams early in the process to understand the trade-offs between enhanced features/graphics and the customer s performance experience. Metrics and goals were shared from the start, with an eye toward balancing three clear guidelines: reliability, speed and functionality. Certain planned features were changed as they were found to be incompatible with some older web browsers. In this case, reliability trumped new features. The result: Delta maintained its stellar response times throughout the redesign process, while increasing online flight check-ins by 10 percent.
5 LEARN FROM THE WINNERS: BEST PRACTICES FOR WEB AND MOBILE PERFORMANCE A decade ago, business managers saw performance as solely an IT concern. As web businesses evolved and became a larger profit center, it became clear that performance was a business issue, especially as abandonment, web dissatisfaction and associated higher costs weighed on revenue. The it s not my problem attitude would no longer fly. If you come away with one concept from this white paper, it s that the business side of your company needs to take full ownership of the customer experience on the web, both the technical and nontechnical aspects. At Compuware we ve seen how the best performing web and mobile businesses operate. Virtually all of them have business and IT departments with a mutual understanding of performance metrics. While they may approach things differently, they have a common language as well as shared goals and responsibilities. To achieve a Best of The Web level of success, we ve identified five overriding principles these companies follow. Beyond a simple to-do list, these are the best best practices you should use to create a corporate culture that will result in highly profitable web performance. 1. REPRESENT THE VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER Just as business managers are not focused on the technical considerations, an IT manager s mindset may not be primarily customer or marketing focused. The direct connection between performance and profits may not be clear. The first step is illuminating the voice of the customer and their experience on your web and mobile site to IT by making the customer perspective relevant and improvement actionable. This means sharing data ranging from customer segmentation to user behavior on your site (i.e., traffic, page views, page abandonment and conversion rates) to business data (such as online advertising revenue or average order size and online revenue). Working with your IT team, you can correlate these business metrics with performance data. Only then will both you and your IT team have a clear sense of how performance problems impact customers. So the next time an IT manager reviews one of his metrics, he sees more than just numbers; he understands the impact on the customer. 2. UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT THAT SITE DESIGN AND MARKETING PROMOTIONS HAVE ON PERFORMANCE IT pros can get understandably frustrated when business people don t understand their technical realities. This happens when the marketing team delivers projects that saddle IT with difficult or impossible challenges. One example is new or revised site designs. Sites compete by adding new features or content, but if your new design is 10 times larger than before, it forces IT to deal with the increased load time of such a heavy web page. Another example would be web promotions designed to increase traffic significantly within a short time frame. Does the marketing team simply hand over this potentially site-clogging event and expect IT to just deal with it? If so, the result could be many frustrated users if IT is not prepared. With a fully integrated business-it approach, such promotions would be properly planned from the start, and include extra IT resources for things like load testing to ensure the site can function through the increased traffic. Given how most web sites and applications are constantly being revised or expanded, and with traffic surges the norm, this holistic view of the performance impact needs to be an ongoing conversation. 3. BENCHMARK TO ENSURE CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS ARE BEING MET None of the above matters unless you fully understand the expectations of your current and future customers. This is where benchmarking becomes critical. Benchmarking is an ongoing process during which you track the performance metrics of your web site. But it doesn t stop there; it s also vital to contrast those metrics with those of Internet leaders and the top performers in your own industry. Without this context, you re flying blind. If your home page response time is averaging 5.2 onds, you might feel positive about that (since last year it was 7.2 onds). However, without a point of reference this is still a subjective assessment. If you then discover your competitor s site is loading in under 4 onds, you will not feel as good. But now you have context. You know exactly what the audiences served by your particular industry expect performance-wise. The context that benchmarking provides is shown clearly in Figure 8, which uses data pulled from the Gomez Benchmarks. It shows the response time standards across various industries, with average, best and worst metrics clearly detailed. Once you know how the leading companies in your industry are performing, which reflects the standards those customers have come to expect, you re in a much better position to gauge where your organization stands. Figure 6: Evaluating the impact of performance across geographies, devices and browsers on page views and abandonment rates provides insight into customer satisfaction. With this benchmarking data, pulled on a continual basis, you ll always have objective comparison points, resulting in better decisions and the ability to effectively prioritize which performance areas require the most support.
6 WEB SITE PERFORMANCE BY INDUSTRY Best Worst Average Response Time Best to Worst Gap End-User Expectations = 2 Seconds or Less Banking Retail Source: Gomez U.S. Last Mile Benchmarks, July 2011 Insurance Travel Agents Health Info Travel Hotels Auto Travel Airlines Figure 7: You won t know where you stand unless you know the performance expectations for your industry. Benchmarking provides this context. 4. ESTABLISH SHARED GOALS, METRICS AND ACTIONS With the above practices in place, business and technology will no longer be operating in silos. The next stage is putting performance metrics into a plan of shared goals and actions. With everyone now placing equal importance on the customer, end-user experience can become a constructive bridge between every division in your organization. Only then can your full performance potential be realized. 5. AIM FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT Striving for optimal performance is a process. That s why a mindset of continuous improvement is critical to keeping up with impatient customers and staying ahead of the competition. The Gomez APM Maturity Model offers a roadmap for a company s performance journey, one best taken in stages. It starts with being reactive, then moves on to awareness. This spawns the new internal structures suggested by this report, as performance becomes a multi-division business priority. From there you can create a fully optimized web business and automate performance monitoring processes, continuing to improve performance metrics and fine-tuning as the customer experience gets better and better. Eventually the customer experience becomes a differentiator for your brand. Because just as customers are aware of chronically slow or crashprone web or mobile sites, they are also aware of the consistently stable and fast ones. This is the advanced stage of organizational performance maturity, and it s where our Best of the Web companies live. The results show in enhanced customer loyalty and higher conversion rates, all of which lead to increased profitability. Watching this progression of success can inspire an organization to even higher standards. Figure 8: When business and IT managers measure the impact of performance on user behavior and business results, your organization will be in the sweet spot of performance/profit optimization.
7 PERFORMANCE IS A TEAM SPORT The changes we suggest won t happen overnight. The growing complexity of the web, the explosive growth of mobile devices and the speedobsessed end user will force business and IT to constantly adjust to stay ahead of the curve. The good news is that a template for performance excellence has already been established, detailed in the information and practices described in this report. Even more good news: The tools and products necessary to establish, refine and automate end-user performance monitoring and analysis are at or beyond the advanced stage and can allow your organization to more quickly achieve its profit potential. For more information, visit: compuware.com/application-performance-management BENCHMARKING DATA RESOURCE Gomez Benchmarking Web Site Start your internal benchmarking program with an accurate, and free, look at how web and mobile properties perform across many industries. The Gomez Benchmarks web site has hundreds of benchmarks tracking thousands of companies in over 20 countries. Metrics are updated monthly or biweekly. Published for over a decade, Gomez Benchmarks are based on millions of measurements using over 150 high-bandwidth backbone locations and 150,000 Last Mile desktop computers of real end users. Visit Gomez Benchmarks: gomez.com/benchmarks PERFORMANCE SUCCESSES WITHIN YOUR REACH The connection between performance and profits is a solid one, though it shows up differently in each organization. We ve tallied a small sampling of improvements that came as a result of companies adopting Compuware Gomez Application Performance Management (APM) services and practices. Increased revenue by 25 percent. Reduced home page load time from 11.3 to 3.4 onds. Saved over 50 percent in staff and fees. Reduced revenue loss by 92 percent. Reduced site downtime by 42 percent. Improved first-hour problem resolution rate to 80 percent. Improved annual troubleshooting efficiency by 97 percent. Reduced SAP license costs by $475,000 per year. Compuware Corporation, the technology performance company, provides software, experts and best practices to ensure technology works well and delivers value. Compuware solutions make the world s most important technologies perform at their best for leading organizations worldwide, including 46 of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies and 12 of the top 20 most visited U.S. web sites. Learn more at: compuware.com. Compuware Corporation World Headquarters One Campus Martius Detroit, MI Compuware Corporation Compuware products and services listed within are trademarks or registered trademarks of Compuware Corporation. Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners JP
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