How to Improve eCommerce Site Speed for Maximum Performance
A speedy and efficient eCommerce site is crucial for the success of your DTC brand. A slow website will turn potential customers away, lower your conversion rate, and ultimately hinder your profits and growth.
In this article, we’ll dive into:
- The importance of site speed for your eCommerce business
- How to analyze your eCommerce site’s performance
- How to optimize your website infrastructure
By implementing the following recommendations, you’ll be well on your way to achieving maximum performance (and revenue) for your brand.
The Impact of Site Speed
Before diving into the technical side of things, let’s take a moment to understand why site speed plays such a critical role in the success of an eCommerce website. This understanding should guide your performance optimization efforts in the right direction.
User Experience and Conversion Rates
The speed of your eCommerce site is essential due to its direct impact on user experience. A slow-loading website will quickly frustrate users, causing them to abandon their shopping carts and seek faster alternatives. Meaning, your competitors.
Website speed is so important that research from organizations like Google, Deloitte, and Portent has repeatedly found that the slower your website, the fewer customers will find your store, browse your products, and convert.
Quick stats on site speed:
- A 2019 study by Google found that on average, consumers were 10% more willing to recommend an online store if its load time was reduced from 13 to 10 seconds. An additional reduction from 13 seconds to 3 seconds gave an estimated 26% increase in advocacy.
- Research from Deloitte has found that even a slight increase in site speed (0.1 seconds) raised retail conversions by 8.4%.
- In 2022, Portent reported that an eCommerce website’s conversion rate falls by 0.3% for every additional second it takes your site to load. The highest-converting online stores convert, on average, at 3.05% with a loading time of 1 to 2 seconds.
Keep in mind that the studies from both Google and Deloitte were conducted before 2020 and 2021. eCommerce’s industry-wide boom during the COVID-19 pandemic likely increased these numbers.
SEO and Site Speed
Site speed greatly impacts where your brand ranks in search engine results. Google and other major search engines factor website performance into their user search criteria. A fast website is more likely to rank higher in search results than a slow one, which means greater visibility for your online store, higher site traffic, and a big boost to your brand’s credibility.
In the eyes of search engines (and your customers), website performance equals user experience, and a faster site will provide a better user experience every time.
Think about all of the times you’ve shopped online. Which websites did you visit and buy from most often? Which sites did you find yourself leaving? More likely than not, you clicked away from the slow-loading websites and chose to buy from the faster-loading websites instead.
Statista has found that 72% of all traffic on retail sites came from mobile devices during the first quarter of 2023. The number of mobile users will only grow in the coming years, making it increasingly important to optimize your eCommerce site speeds for mobile devices.
Mobile users are also more likely to be easily distracted by outside stimuli when compared to users on desktops. Through our user testing at Anatta, we’ve found that when mobile users browse an online store, they’re usually multitasking instead of paying full attention to their devices.
When a mobile device user is visiting your site, they’re also chatting with their partner, playing with their pets, watching Netflix… Slow-loading pages cannot compete for a mobile user’s attention.
What’s more, Google takes a mobile-first indexing approach. Only mobile-friendly, fast sites achieve strong search engine rankings and overall success in DTC.
Analyzing Your eCommerce Site Speed
The impact of your eCommerce store speed is hard to overstate. But how do you know where your site stands? Analyzing your eCommerce site’s current performance and continuing to make improvements when necessary is crucial to your long-term growth.
Tools for Measuring Site Speed
There are several tools available to help you measure the performance of your website. Let’s take a look at what each one offers.
- Google Lighthouse: Provides you with actionable data on your site’s SEO standing, overall performance, accessibility, and more. Additionally, Lighthouse will provide site metrics like Total Blocking Time (TBT), first and large contentful paint, and Time to Interactive (TTI).
- Google PageSpeed Insights (PSI): PSI provides a comprehensive analysis of your site’s loading speed, including metrics like Time to First Byte (TTFB).
- WebPageTest: Provides a detailed view of your site’s performance in different browsers, locations, and connection speeds.
- GT Metrix: Comprehensive testing and scores based on location, page load times, and a waterfall view of your website’s elements combined with Google Lighthouse data.
Potential Site Speed Bottlenecks
As you conduct your website speed analysis, you’ll uncover bottlenecks that could slow down your site.
Common bottlenecks include:
- Image size
- Number of HTTP requests
- Poorly optimized code (code bloat)
- High number of apps/plug-ins
- Insufficient caching strategies
- Location of your site’s hosting providers
As you uncover bottlenecks, remember that only some roadblocks to a faster website speed are within your control. Depending on your eCommerce platform, some of these bottlenecks should be taken care of for you. Likewise, you also can’t control your customers’ network speed.
Setting Performance Goals
After analyzing your site and identifying areas for improvement, set specific performance goals that are both realistic and ambitious. These goals should be based on industry benchmarks and tailored to your eCommerce site’s unique needs.
Monitoring progress towards these goals will help you stay focused and maintain momentum throughout the optimization process. Regularly check your site’s loading speed and adjust as needed to ensure you’re on track.
Optimizing Your eCommerce Site Speed
With your performance analysis complete and goals established, it’s time to start making improvements. Begin by addressing the infrastructure supporting your eCommerce site to ensure it’s optimized for maximum speed and efficiency.
Having a well-optimized infrastructure is crucial for the success of your eCommerce site. It not only ensures that your site is fast and efficient, but it also provides a seamless user experience for your customers.
Choosing the Right Hosting Provider
Your choice of hosting provider plays an essential role in your site’s performance. A hosting provider is responsible for storing and delivering your website’s content to users. Therefore, choosing a reliable and fast hosting service provider is vital.
There are different hosting options available, such as shared, dedicated, and cloud-based hosting:
- Shared hosting is the most affordable option, but it can be slow and unreliable.
- Dedicated hosting is more expensive, but it provides better performance and security.
- Cloud-based hosting is a scalable and flexible option that can handle sudden traffic spikes.
When selecting a hosting provider for your eCommerce website, ensure that they offer adequate resources, dependable uptime, and the ability to scale as your online business grows.
Implementing a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers strategically located worldwide. By caching and storing your content on these servers, a CDN ensures that your site’s data is accessible quickly and efficiently, regardless of users’ physical distance from your server.
Implementing a CDN can greatly enhance your site’s loading speed for users around the globe. It can also reduce server load and improve uptime. Some popular CDN providers include Cloudflare, Amazon CloudFront, and Akamai.
Browser & Server Caching
Implementing caching strategies can immensely improve your eCommerce site’s performance. Caching involves temporarily storing copies of files or data to reduce load times for repeat site visitors.
There are two types of caching strategies:
- Browser caching: involves storing website data on the user’s browser. When users revisit your site, their browser can quickly retrieve the stored data, resulting in faster load times.
- Server caching: involves storing website data on the server side. This means the server can quickly retrieve the stored data, resulting in faster load times for all users.
Implementing caching strategies can reduce server load, speed up page load times, and create a more seamless user experience.
Reducing Image Sizes and Optimizing Formats
Large, unoptimized images can significantly slow down your site’s loading speed. Compress your images and reduce their file size without sacrificing quality using tools such as TinyPNG or JPEGmini. Additionally, consider converting your images to more efficient formats, such as WebP, to further increase your site’s performance.
Minimizing HTTP Requests
Using CSS Sprites and Icon Fonts
Instead of loading multiple individual image files for various icons and interface elements, consider using CSS sprites and icon fonts. These techniques combine numerous images into a single file or utilize a font to represent icons, resulting in fewer HTTP requests and faster load times.
Lazy loading enables your eCommerce site to display content that’s only visible above the fold. As a user scrolls down the page, additional content will load. Lazy loading prevents the server from being overwhelmed by staggering the display of your site’s supporting content, like customer reviews.
How Can You Improve eCommerce Website Speed on Shopify Plus?
If your store is hosted on an eCommerce platform such as Shopify Plus, Shopify handles parts of your site infrastructure like hosting, CDN, and caching. You can still optimize your theme’s Liquid code, your theme architecture, and your apps/plug-ins and images.
What Shopify controls:
- Hosting: Shopify stores are hosted by Shopify itself on its cloud-based infrastructure. According to Shopify, its servers have a 99.99% uptime on average.
- CDN: Shopify equips its stores with the global CDN from Cloudflare.
What merchants can control:
- Number of images and image sizes. By default, Shopify stores cannot have more than 50 products on a collection page or 25 sections on a store’s homepage. Shopify also lazy loads images below the fold.
- The number of apps, plug-ins, and theme features: Third-party apps or theme features, when unoptimized, can slow your site down due to the increase of JS.
- Your theme architecture: While Shopify’s default themes, like Dawn, are built for high performance, by partnering with Shopify experts, you can build an even faster Shopify theme architecture.
Site speed optimization is a continuous process. After solving for a speed bottleneck, test your site performance to measure how big of an impact your solutions offer. If you discover that your site speed isn’t improving after implementing the strategies above, it’s likely time to optimize your site’s underlying architecture as opposed to its infrastructure.
Launch an Industry-Leading DTC eCommerce Store with Anatta
Believe it or not, you can have both a beautiful and lightning-fast eCommerce store. At Anatta, we’ve developed our own custom Shopify Theme architecture that’s built for performance, has a less than one-second load time, and supports fast-growing DTC brands as they scale to industry leaders. Today, the Shopify sites we’ve built for our clients, like Rothy’s and Thesis are some of the fastest in DTC eCommerce.
- Surinder is the Senior Vice President of Engineering. Shortly after completing his Computer Science degree, he joined Anatta in 2011 as its second employee. Today, he runs a 15+ person team and oversees a dozen projects simultaneously. Surinder’s expertise includes Wordpress, Magento, Shopify, and creating Progress Web Apps (PWA) using AWS infrastructure.