What everyone should know about web speed sensitivity

by Mike on July 1, 2013

Butterflies on the nectar line - Eve Schoeffler, Age 12

Butterflies on the nectar line – Eve Schoeffler, Age 12

Speed impacts customer satisfaction.

Web data converts this intuition into hard numbers. Google showed the world that slow load times cause fewer searches; Amazon found each tenth of a second delay drops sales 1%. One second costs Amazon more than 10% of their sales.

So fast load times are critical for Amazon and Google. What about your website?

Speed’s only important in certain places

Shuffleboard waits pass easier when you're 75

Shuffleboard waits pass by easier when you’re 75

Think real life.

It’s no big deal if your kids take half an hour to fry eggs and squeeze OJ. But when the Starbucks barista dawdles on your morning coffee? Wailing, whining, and foot stomping.

Same deal on the web – context matters. Some businesses face more time sensitivity than others:

  • Competition – are your users accustomed to Google speeds?
  • Product type – An impulse buy (a cheap game) tends to be more susceptible to load time than an expensive investment (a new TV).
  • Customer demographics – Age, location, income, and other factors all affect the dynamic.

It never hurts to accelerate your website. But is this a million dollar problem or just a minor hindrance? Faster loads are always possible – at a price.

Some pages are more sensitive than others

It’s critical to figure out if speed matters on your website. It’s even even more useful to know exactly where users care most about speed because some methods work best on specific pages.

Early indications from Web Speed Ledger are that the most sensitive pages cluster in the buying funnel. People on your home page may not care too much about speed. But as they start pulling out their wallets, they’re easier to annoy.

Real data: home page vs. sales funnel

Real data from WSL: home page vs. sales funnel

In the example on the right (based on a large site with millions of monthly unique visits), the pricing page displays stronger speed sensitivity than the home page. This makes sense – people who want to know price are serious prospects.

Of course, the home page is important because it receives many more visits. When you balance out all the important factors, this company earns twice as much money speeding up their pricing page.

Using detailed price sensitivity knowledge

How can you apply individual price sensitivities?

  1. Sharpen the pages that will earn you the most money. You may focus on unique strategies or even cut content from important pages. Page-specific attention can help your sales grow by a sizable margin.
  2. Examine your time sensitivity patterns. The most sensitive pages tend to be deeper in your buying funnel. The subtle patterns may uncover important customer behavior.

The bottom line

Speed is important on most websites. Quantifying the numbers will help you understand whether you need to focus on speed, how much time and money you should devote to the problem, where to home in on, and so much more. There’s fertile ground to both please your users and add measurable profits for the business.

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