While monitoring the performance of the Internet Retailer Top 50 Retailers this past Holiday Season, we also tracked what third party vendors and CDNs were utilized and measured their impact on each website. The data collected not only offered insights on what third parties and CDNs are most utilized, but also provided insights on how retailers can optimize the speed of their websites.
Websites rely on various third party vendors for key services like: Managed DNS, Content Delivery, Content Acceleration, Adserving, Analytics, Behavioral Target, Content Optimization, Widgets, etc. For the purpose of this blog post and the study we are referring to “3rd party providers” to companies that deliver content or services on a webpage via an HTML tag.
Top Third Party Providers
3rd Party Provider Distribution on Top 50 Internet Retailers
From the data collected on 3rd Party Providers we observed the following interesting points:
- 3rd Party Providers are thriving – our agents communicated with 161 different 3rd party providers and over 365 unique hostnames during the 123 hour period (Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday)
- Google/DoubleClick, Google, and Yahoo/RightMedia appeared on about 60% of the sites
- On 21 sites, at least one 3rd party provider was a bottleneck for more than 10% of Document Complete time (for the homepage).
To prevent 3rd party provider impact on the performance of the webpage, it is highly recommended that sites defer the loading of third party tags until after Onload/Document Complete. This technique gives precedence to your content, allowing it to load first and mitigating any rendering slowness or errors caused by the third party tags.
CDN Usage on Top 50 Internet Retailers
By looking at the CDN providers across the ecommerce websites and third party vendors we found:
- Akamai is clearly the “800lb gorilla”, providing service to 64% of the sites.
- Surprisingly Amazon.com relies on Akamai to deliver the static content, although they offer their own CDN solution, CloudFront.
- 24 Sites that relied on a CDN did not implement “domain sharding” and delivered static content from a single domain/hostname.
Not using “domain sharding” across two hostnames is a major WPO folly when a site has 10+ static requests. It is a missed opportunity to take advantage of HTTP’s parallel loading capabilities to load content quicker.
In conclusion, third party providers are widely used by retail sites. The top retailers have room to improve their performance by deferring the load of 3rd party tags, and implementing other WPO techniques like “domain sharding”, compression, etc.
– Catchpoint Team
* For various reasons the study excluded the following five companies: Netflix, Blockbuster, 1800 Flowers, Scholastic, and Redcats USA. In their place, we included Foot Locker, Abercrombie and Fitch, PC Mall, Wayfair, and Crate and Barrel.