In our previous post on consumer psychology we saw some startling numbers related to site speed. It turns out that if consumers have to wait just 3 seconds for your store to load up, 57% of them will bounce immediately. Of those, 80% will never return to your store.

The consequences are two-fold. A high bounce rate means lower conversion rates as well as lower search engine rankings. Not only are you losing sales now, you’ll also have less traffic coming to you in the future because people can’t find you online.

Knowing this, it’s shocking that most eCommerce stores today take 10 seconds to load. And this number is actually increasing every year, as sites get bigger.

Studies show that most #eCommerce stores take over 10 seconds to load! Is yours one of them? Click To Tweet

Now there’s nothing wrong with having a large site. The problem is, most eCommerce stores use hardware or software that can’t keep up. In a world where every second matter, outdated servers and clunky eCommerce solutions just don’t cut it.

The big question is, are you one of these stores? And if you are, how do you fix it? Let’s find out.

1. Check your page speed

eCommerce site speed

To answer the first question, you need to find out how fast your store is loading. The best tool for this is Pingdom.

The Pingdom Site Speed tool is free to use and only requires you to enter your store’s URL. Type in the home page address of your store and let it work it’s magic. It will show you the number of requests it takes to load your site, how large the page is, and how long it takes.

Google PageSpeed and Yahoo’s YSlow are two other tools that give you better insights into why your store loads slowly. They also suggest fixes to help you improve performance.

Fixes can be broadly categorized into server level and site level. Server level fixes have to do with the servers hosting your store and they aren’t something you can implement yourself. Site level fixes have to do with how your site is built and can be fixed by you or a technical member of your team.

2. Server level fixes

Compress your pages

When you tested your load speed using Pingdom, you would have seen the size of the page. Now page sizes may vary, but if you have a lot of data on your pages the sizes can go up to a few megabytes. That takes up a lot of bandwidth and reduces site speed.

By compressing your pages, you’re reducing their size and the time it takes to transfer them. Your web server should come with compression built-in, but if it doesn’t you’ll have to ask them to install it.

Cache your database

Caching is a method of storing data temporarily so that when a browser requests that data, it’s available immediately. The server wouldn’t need to keep querying the database to pull the same data if it were cached.

Again, your server should already have this installed so talk to them about it.

Use a CDN

The location of your web server actually matters when it comes to site speed. You can see the difference on Pingdom when you select which server to test from. The farther away your customer is from your server, the longer it takes to load your site.

A Content Delivery Network helps fix this. It is a network of servers distributed around the world that helps deliver your web pages more efficiently. It routes data from the server closest to your visitor’s location to load your site faster.

If your server doesn’t come with a CDN, you can use a third-party service. You’ll have to pay for it though, and it can get pricy depending on your bandwidth requirements.

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Speed up your server

Of course, there’s not much you can do about this one if you use a web hosting service. Speeding up the server will obviously speed up your page loads, but that would mean your service would need to upgrade their hardware. The best solution is to switch to another service, or use a hosted platform built on fast servers.

In fact, if any of the above fixes can’t be implemented on your servers, it’s time to think about switching to something more powerful. When it comes to hosting large eCommerce stores, you need fast servers with built-in caching, compression and CDN.

3. Site level fixes

Optimize Images

We’ve discussed how larger images on product pages increase conversion rates but on the flip side they also take up a lot of bandwidth. If you have large images on your store, you might have noticed them taking a longer time to load when you ran the Pingdom test.

The best way to solve this is to optimize images by reducing their size without reducing quality. You can manually do this in Photoshop, or use an online tool like Kraken.

Minify your code

You might have seen suggestions like Minify JS, Minify CSS and Minify HTML when you ran Google PageSpeed. This has to do with the way your site is coded.

Basically, when your server sends a page to a customer’s browser, it’s really sending the code, which the browser then interprets. By removing unnecessary data in the code and minifying it, you’ll speed this up.

If your store is custom built, you can use the tools recommended by Google to minify your code. It’s a very technical process so you’ll have to ask your developers to handle it.

If you use an eCommerce platform or a CMS and you still see this issue, you’ll have to talk to them to find out how to fix it or use a hack. For example, WordPress users run into this a lot and they have to use external plugins to fix it.

Defer load blocking resources

This also has to do with the way your site is coded. Sometimes a page load seems to take long because of a bottleneck. These could be scripts that are blocking other elements in your page from loading.

To combat this you’ll need to either eliminate these scripts from your code, or defer their loading till the more important elements above the fold are loaded. Again, if your store is custom built, talk to your developers. If not, you’ll have to look for a hack.

While site level fixes are easier than server level fixes, you still might want to consider switching to a well-coded eCommerce platform if you find that your hacks are not working. It also takes the hassle out of having to look after your code when you should be selling more products.

Want to sell more?

Each fix might seem trivial to you when viewed separately, but when taken together they matter a lot. If you can speed your page load by just 4 seconds you’ll see a 25% decrease in page abandonment. That’s a direct increase in conversion rates on your site.

If you can speed your page load by just 4 seconds you’ll see a 25% decrease in page abandonment. Click To Tweet

So instead of throwing money at ads and wondering why your sales aren’t increasing, invest a little in your store’s performance. If you need to pay a little extra to switch to a better host or eCommerce platform, remember that your investment will pay off in the long run.