Here we are. Ah, this breath of fresh air Mikayla. How are you doing?
Fantastic. How are you?
I'm very good. Thank you so much for asking. Good morning, good afternoon, and maybe good evening everyone. How's everyone doing? First of all, thank you for joining us. It's a beautiful day here in Toronto. What's it like by you, Mikayla?
Actually a beautiful day in New Hampshire. Had a little bit of a rainy summer, so this is great.
Awesome, awesome. Well, we'd like to know where everyone's joining us from. Drop in your little flag emoji in the chat. We'd love to get an idea of who you are, where you're coming from, what country you're representing. But at the end of the day, we want to welcome you all.
Welcome to Sold in 6 Seconds. It's a little conversation that I'm having with my partner in crime or in performance. I'll introduce a second, but we're here to talk about formulas to fast and friction-free e-commerce.
My name is Henri and once again, I'm joined by my partner in performance, Mikayla. Mikayla, how you doing?
Great, thank you. Today we're going to have a fun discussion around web performance and e-commerce this back-to-school season. As you know, consumers demand speed and you got to make sure that your website's able to pass that test.
Absolutely. It's going to be a very important chat. We want to make sure that you have superb user experiences so that you can, what we like to call secure the bag. That's why website experiences are very important and, in fact, when it comes to website experience. I know, you know, Mikayla, you like to have these conversations with some of your clients.
Yeah, I have a lot of calls with Catchpoint WebPageTest users. We're all using websites every single day. We know what a good experience feels like, and I'm sure you know what a poor experience feels like too. Changes in performance are going to impact your search engine ranking, your retention of users, and converting of customers. Website experience is absolutely critical to increasing your revenue and avoiding reputational damage to your brand.
Absolutely. In today's conversation it's really going to be about e-commerce and e-commerce really as a priority.
Now, for those who may or may not know, last year in 2022, we had about 20% of global retail sales were e-comm. Basically everything was online.
Some say the figure could be attributed to several reasons. One of them being the sort of tail end of the peak of COVID 19, which was a bit of an accelerant when it came to getting online and the e-commerce space in general. Ain’t that right, Mikayla?
Not only did we shop a little bit more online because it was safer than going in a store. It even made certain businesses, like grocery stores, retailers have the ability to order things online and have it delivered directly to your car in a parking lot.
We're relying on the internet even more than we were before, if that's even possible.
Tell me about it. We're talking about back to school.
Yes, when I'm thinking about back to school, I almost always picture myself in first grade going to an office supply store with my mom. Buying some notebooks and pencils, but realistically it's a whole lot more than that. There's college students that are going back to school, they need to get things for their dorm, maybe new laptops or books. Everybody's looking for new clothes to look spiffy on that first day back.
There's a lot of revenue coming in for a lot of different types of businesses and it's up to you to make sure that your website is ready for all of those users.
Absolutely, and we had some great data when it came to back to school in general.
Back to school spending is expected to exceed $30 billion in 2023. That's billion with a "B”, Henri. That's a lot of money on the table.
It is. It is.
60% of shoppers are favoring online retailers and 56% of shoppers are going to do the majority of their shopping online.
I personally agree with that. I definitely spend more time online shopping than walking through a mall. So that means fashion, luxury, office supply stores – it's going to be a priority for everybody across the board.
Yep, absolutely. When you talked about fashion and whatnot, it's really interesting. Footwear, is a huge category and it's actually often seen as like apparel, potentially fashion. Ultimately it's such a big category that some believe that it needs its own category period, like footwear should be a separate category.
Here we can see that Footlocker, who is very strong in e-commerce and they have a dedicated presence. In 2021 they achieved almost 30% of their sales online as digital sales, and that hit $2 billion. That's 2 billion with a "B" folks.
That's a lot of Air Jordans to tell the truth. Well, maybe not actually because Jordans are kind of pricey, but either way they do have a very strong presence.
And in fact, Matt Powell, who's a senior sports advisor mentioned that Footlocker has a very well-developed e-comm platform.
These are very important notes because in order to have a good experience online, good sales, and have people check out, you want to make sure that you look after your e-commerce platform.
Now, speaking of platforms, I wanted to look at some data and I pulled out some performance user experience data on four well-known platforms here. Now what we're looking at is these four platforms, and you'll see the blue line, which is the core web vitals average on the internet. We can see three or the four platforms are not supplying a good user experience and or are not performing. But we do see one in particular, which is the pink line, and that is a e-comm platform that Mikayla and I know very well. And in fact, you can see they are head and shoulders, not only above the average but also above the other three platforms.
Now, you might ask yourself, why is that?
Well, we got the intel. This is a platform that basically has a good performance culture. In fact, they have performance teams across several of their products and we can see the results right here.
Now, Mikayla, you mentioned in some of our conversations that you hear a lot from customers about core web vitals.
Yeah, I can promise you that I have not gone on a single call or talk to any Catchpoint WebPageTest user that isn't prioritizing Core Web Vitals and speed in general.
So that means not only are the people that are in in that tool every single day trying to improve these webpages are focused on it. That means it goes all the way up to the executive level because you're reporting on these metrics too. Every single company, whether it be banks, retail, insurance, anything –everybody cares about Core Web Vitals. It's kind of crazy.
Absolutely. And of course, in a back-to-school environment, you're having a sale, a promotion, or flash event, you want to make sure that everything's smooth online so you can have that great experience so that you can have your customers check right out.
When it comes to the website experience and WebPageTest, which is again the gold standard, we will surface some of that information for you.
Now, here is a quick example.
We have a particular site with an LCP of 9.71. But the fact is that we will have all that information for you to take back and make some adjustments needed be.
Now, as we move forward, I quoted someone from the sports industry and I'm going to quote someone else who says, “I don't really like fast websites.”
His name is no one. Everyone wants to have a fast website, a quick experience. And at the end of the day, speed matters. To have a fast and friction free experience, you want to make sure that you're on top of your metrics at all times.
I'll give you a quick example here. Here we're looking at a page performance summary. We have some of the basic metrics that we like to service for you to start to paint that picture. If I go back to some of those three platforms that we were looking at earlier, three out of the four had relatively failing time to first bytes. And in fact, the data was showing out of the three, only 50% were displaying good time to first bites, which is I think 700 milliseconds.
So once again, we can see that A, either they don't have a good performance culture, B, they're probably not monitoring any of their metrics, or C, all of the above. Alright?
These are very important moments in creating that environment so that your users could come in, buy the item and check right out.
Now, that being said we want to make sure that we have continuous improvements on industry standard metrics like the Core Web Vitals. Ain't that right, Mikayla?
Yeah, it's absolutely critical to continuously test and monitor key metrics like this over time, not only to understand what your performance looks like in general but also to be able to catch any of those performance regressions and any of those performance bottlenecks. You'll be aware of them so you can eliminate them and ensure the best experience for your users.
Something we say a lot is that you can't really improve what you're not monitoring and measuring.
So just taking that first step is a great way to ensure that you're not going to lose any of those customers due to a poor website.
Absolutely. Speaking of poor websites – we want to get into an example right here. And we talked about continuous testing, and we are going to talk about the importance of testing now. This is a real live example that I personally went through.
Now I know Jennay, a coworker somewhere in the chat, she's going to appreciate this one. Jennay and I are both runners, and I was like shopping for shoes.
I got to this website and this is where I was adding to cart and suddenly, I had this popup saying, ‘Hey, hold on.’ There was like a 30 second countdown and I'm like, what is going on here?
By the end, eventually I got this screen to the screen that says, ‘An unexpected error occurred. Please try again in a few seconds. Thank you for your patience.’ And I was like, 30 seconds. Well guess what? That was 35 seconds more than I had.
We do not have this kind of patience online. The data is there. There’s a classic data point about three seconds or you lose 50% of your users.
But this is the importance of testing.
Why? Well, I discovered that this was an issue that was happening only in the Safari browser because I tried this in Chrome or something else, and it was working.
Here we can see that someone may have just done some surface testing, but sometimes you absolutely have to go a little deeper. That's why at WebPageTest you can replicate the user journey right through to the add to cart and the checkout. This is some testing that had not taken place.
This is why we always say you can test, you can track and you can improve the user experience and performance over time by making sure that you're on top of these user experiences.
Mikayla, some of the customers that you deal with mentioned networks and geos.
Yeah. Your users aren't coming from one place. They're coming from multiple different networks, connection speeds and different geographies.
Just starting with connection speeds – you might have users that are coming from a faster 4 or 5 G connection. Where you also might have other users that are coming from a slower 3 G connection. You don't want to mistake of only testing those faster speeds because then you're losing out on that business from any users that are coming from that slower connection.
And at the end of the day, you want to have a good user experience for everyone no matter where they are, which also brings us over to those different locations.
You could have users that are accessing your data from across the country or from across the globe. You want to make sure that no matter where your users are or where they're coming from, how they're accessing your data, that they have a good user experience and have the ability to seamlessly check out.
Absolutely. And you know, we are talking about back to school. I want to share a quick little story. We have a shot of a classroom right here.
A few years ago I gave a presentation and we were talking about images and performance and compression. Afterwards, someone came up to me and really thanked me for the talk and said that she was responsible for an education platform that they were building, and it was mostly for North America.
She said out of nowhere they were getting students from overseas and, in particular, India. And, some of the students in India were complaining or letting them know that they were having trouble downloading some of the content and especially around images. She said she was shocked and taken aback because A, she didn't realize they were getting students from overseas, and B, did not realize that they were having, um, performance issues.
She kind of shared that story with me and let me know that she was really taking some of these notes back to with her to work.
Once again, we have a situation where monitoring, especially from different geos, would've come in very handy.
And this is why, again, as Mikayla shared, your customer may come from any parts of the world, and you want to make sure that they have that seamless experience that you expect in e-comm situation. They might not be buying an actual product, but they might be paying for a service like an education platform and trying to learn. These moments are extremely important in setting up your e-comm environment.
We have advanced configurations over our WebPageTest and this is one of the key features that makes webpage test such a fantastic solution over at Catchpoint. We can test from Paris to Portland, from Melbourne to Milan. We can test from Sao Paulo to Shanghai. You can determine using this solution where you want to test from.
Also, we can create in fine detail the kind of networks that your users are seeing.
As you could tell from this chart or the screenshot, we can determine the bandwidth up or down. We can determine the latency. We can pick the packet loss. Because these are things that really happen on a network when you're on the internet. So that being said, let's get back to the idea that we can paint a comprehensive picture of your users with a variety of user devices, network speeds, conditions, router times, et cetera.
These are very important when you're testing because you want to make sure that you can see and understand what your users are experiencing. Now, obviously with the API, we can take that even a little further and can get into dashboards, which Mikayla will get get into in a hot second. But, you can set up some alerts for performance budget.
For example, that person who had the education platform with a performance budget, she might've been like, Hey, you know what? These images are too large because we have people from overseas. Let's make sure they come in within this kind of budget. Because that's what's required for them to be able to download the content from a different network with different speeds.
And, Mikayla you had mentioned as well, some of the conversations you had with some of your clients around some of these dashboards.
Yeah, something that I've figured out is that visualizing performance looks different at every company. There are certain teams that might have a bunch of different brands that they monitor, so they might have some sort of dashboard where they're looking at all of those brands, seeing if everything's good or bad. There are also different teams that might be focused on key campaign pages or key webpages on one site where they're looking maybe specific core web vitals or those different performance budgets for page speed, for example.
No matter what, how you visualize that performance is completely up to you and your team. And what's most important at the end of the day is every company needs to be continuously testing and improving those webpages to ensure the best experiences for users.
Because like we said, the internet's a complex beast, and if you're not continuously looking at it and keeping an eye on it, you're going to fall behind your competitors.
Absolutely. There are a lot of moving parts under the hood and you want to make sure that you have some control as much as possible on all of not the key parts. Let's keep moving forward here.
Something else that came up and getting back to some of those e-comm platforms, we saw that out of the four platforms, one was doing extremely well and you know, three of them were like, eh, if not just poor in general.
And part of that is the fact that one created a culture of performance. They understood how important performance was from just an e-comm level or just even just a basic user experience level. And it translated into some of the data that they had out there. Again, doing extremely well on many of the metrics that matter out there. And we can see that probably in their checkout flow and user experiences.
I know, Mikayla, you've had a lot of these great conversations with some of your clients around the culture of performance.
Yeah, some teams have that culture performance implemented and it works really well for them, like we see in that chart. But I've also heard from a lot of customers that it can be really hard to create that culture of performance and it's something that a lot of teams tend to actually struggle with.
At the end of the day, it's not just developers that are focused on web performance speed, et cetera. There's SEO specialists that need to focus on core web vitals for those search engine rankings and increasing conversions, which means that not just engineering cares about it but that means marketing cares about it too. Performance across different departments.
Again, it goes all the way to the top. All of these metrics and all of these conversions are being reported at the executive level.
If you don't have everybody on board in that culture of performance, you are going to fall behind. And if you want to avoid losing that revenue and impact on your brand reputation due to poor performance, you need to make sure that everybody's aligned.
Absolutely. I love that you mentioned the brand reputation because people tend to forget how important that is. I'll give you a quick example. I used to go to one particular site and just kind of browse and I did it in part because I knew how snappy and fast the site was. I don't know if this was sort of like baked in now because I would just do this out of boredom. Like, hey, let me just take a look and see what I can spend my money on today.
But these things matter. You may not realize it folks, but people do discuss how fast your site is. They get annoyed at a slow site, and they may not say how much they love a fast site, but they will let you know when the site is slow and it becomes cumbersome, right?
That’s a walkthrough of what we feel is very important when it comes to e-comm in our back to school themed special today sold in six seconds because we want to make sure that we can widen your avenue to revenue. You want to make sure that you make as much money as you can because you know you have the product. You wanna make sure that people can kind of come in, pick the product, not be faced with a 30 second delay or being told to kind of like try again when I could have been on a different site and checking right through and getting my product delivered to me immediately.
Before we we go any further, I want to thank everyone for joining us. We are going to launch a poll as well, which I'm going to share right now.
If there are some questions out there that we open it up to the audience here. You can either put it in the chat or there's like a Q&A page as well.
Since we have some time, I want to share some additional data. Something else that I'd noticed in the research of the four platforms, again, the three that weren't doing well, I mentioned they didn't have good TTFB. Two of them had poor LCP as well. Not to sort of like bag on them because I know LCP is actually a bit of a challenging metric to master and developers have problems with LCP, but this again gets back to the culture performance, the ability to monitor some of the key metrics: user experience and performance in one.
These are the kind of results that you want to make sure that you avoid, right? We want you to pass when it comes to back to school, you know, we want that passing grade.
I see that we have a question in the chat from Theo. Henri, I think you’d have good insight on this one. As you know, core web vitals FID is being sunset and we're introducing INP. Theo asked, do you have any initial thoughts for SEOs and devs working to optimize for INP?
Great question, Theo. And you know, it's funny because we're actually working on a bit of a project to discuss SEO in more detail. When it comes to the INP, it was very important because they felt that the FID did not reflect what was actually going on. You know, it was like, kind of like a snapshot. So, my thoughts in terms of like working to optimize INP, absolutely. You do have some time to look into it because it's not until I think sometime March of next year where the switch is officially on. It’s a metric that we are absolutely going to keep an eye on. I think right now we're in this trial test period, like it's kind of official, but we want to make sure, or at least Google wants to make sure that for the next year they can collect a bit more data to make sure that they're making the right decision.
So in terms of optimizing for INP, I do believe it's an absolute thumbs up. You should definitely look into it so that when things really become official next year, like I said, around March, you're not caught off guard. You have this sort of period right now where you can start to optimize and really research what needs to be done. Both SEOs and developers should be doing that.
I see another question has come in from Saurish, ‘A major issue I've seen with e-commerce websites is the use of a lot of third parties.
Third parties are an issue. I'm going to quote a friend of mine who works at a major publisher, Conde Nast. They'll tell you that it's not about eliminating third parties, it’s basically working with the third party as much as possible because there are some you really can't do without. Not saying that you should avoid them, but you might be able to have a sort of like a loading pattern for a third party. Because some third parties don't really need to be on an external domain. You could sort of pull those back in, but some you absolutely cannot. So it's a matter of, again, measuring the impact of the third party, seeing where it's come from, what is the result of potentially having different loading patterns for this third party. And then, collecting these results and seeing what's best for your site, right? If you look at a news publisher, they might have a ton of third parties for various reasons, but as an e-comm maybe there's some you could do without. Maybe there's some you can pull back into your domain.
But you will not be able to make that kind of assessment without any particular testing done over time so you can see the effect.
There are studies out there where, again, third parties aren't necessarily bad for you, but if you pull them in to your own domain a little better, and again, it might be a loading pattern you want to use that will be less impactful as a third party.
It's hard to give a definite answer, but a lot of it is around the testing and research and collecting the data and making these decisions thereafter.
Thank you for that question.
Mikayla, is there anything in your travels that maybe we've not covered today?
I think that I would just reiterate the fact that your users are coming from everywhere and they're also not just coming from those different connection speeds and locations, but they're also coming from those different devices, like you mentioned.
I know that earlier when we were talking about this webinar in general, I mentioned to you that my dad doesn't even use a laptop besides his work laptop. If he's buying something online, it's from his phone.
So if you're only focusing on desktop and you're not looking at mobile too, you're going to run into problems where say, my dad isn't able to buy X, Y, Z that he's trying to buy. So just keeping in mind that your users are just coming from everywhere and it's important to not just focus on one specific connection, one specific location, even if that's where you think that's where most of your users are. You got to be testing from everywhere. Because do you really want to leave all that money on the table? We said $30 billion. Do you want to leave 1 billion? Probably not. Yeah. So just making sure that you're continuously testing from all of those different locations is super important.
Absolutely. And thanks for that reminder. And I remember when we had that conversation, you had mentioned your dad. My dad thinks he's like a brilliant internet person, he knows how to surf the web and he is on an older iPad. But very important, as Mikayla said, the ability to test from different locations, different browsers, different devices.
Once again, thank you very much for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your day.