Enhancing User Experience with Performance at the Core
Spryker agency partner superReal shares their view on how a business can drive user experience (UX) with performance as a central subject to UX strategy. The often overlooked factor speed, as well as the right e-commerce platform, can take a company a long way. Find out what you need to consider on your way to a user experience champion.
Currently, user experience is the talk of the trade. Especially in e-commerce, it is an essential topic as it directly links to the conversion rate. But people will answer differently to the question what exactly defines good user experience: excellent design, intuitive user guidance, a well-elaborated self-service area, a wide variety of payment options, and so on. Funnily enough, very few will spontaneously answer: “To me, it is most important that the shop is extremely fast at all touch points!” However, this answer is a very obvious one for us. Just imagine shopping online and the website is taking ages to load. Does this make you feel pleased? Of course not.
Sufficient speed is a basic requirement and, naturally, taken for granted when planning a shop. Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing the platform, we often forget to thoroughly check the mandatory prerequisites in advance. Too easily we are impressed by a long list of special features and fancy add-ons. But once the house has been built, it is rather difficult to mend mistakes in the foundation.
Google recently announced that from July 2018 on, page speed is to become a new ranking factor for mobile pages – according to the fact that the user shall be provided with the best experience possible whilst looking for answers. This is all the more interesting for e-commerce companies as the dependencies on speed and turnover analysed in various studies have to be taken into account. Thus, the Aberdeen Group has found out that the delay of only one second already leads to a 16 % reduced customer satisfaction, 11 % fewer page views and in the end to 7 % less conversion. Amazon mentions as well that the price you pay for each millisecond delay is 1 % sales volume. Time is money – Benjamin Franklin already knew that in 1748.
What is the value of one second in ecommerce? – An example for the benefits of faster loading times for online shops
Speed is often taken into account when it is already too late
Only after the shop has already been launched, the long feature backlog has been completed and no more major A/B tests come to mind, do we often realise that the shop should actually be much faster. At this point, we as an agency sometimes are briefed by new clients to trim their shops to performance. But this can be compared to the cellar of a house – it is almost impossible to retrofit it with an already completed architecture. The decision for performance and scalability is a fundamental one and therefore has to be part of the platform decision. So far, only a few systems on the market can solve the page speed issue with an appropriate architecture by themselves. These are the ones we recommend – if we get the chance. However, the cooperation with a client often begins with an already existing shop based on a flawed architecture, and we are commissioned to subsequently modify it to achieve better results.
Of course, there are always workarounds to improve shops not fast enough due to their architecture. The probably most popular one is the full-page caching platform Varnish. It can be closely connected to platforms such as Magento or OXID. But it only compensates for the unsatisfactory software design, as online shops are very dynamic platforms (e.g. pricing, personalised content, availability). The aim of caching is to display dynamic data statically and thus shorten the response time of the server, since database queries are no longer necessary. For this purpose, a dynamic page is created individually and archived in the cache. This way, all ongoing visitors receive identical content. However, this creates additional challenges and complexities: When should pages be deleted from the cache? How do I communicate that a product offered to the customer actually is no longer available? How can I personalise my shop if I have to deliver identical content at all times?
The solution: well designed e-commerce platforms
As a buyer of an e-commerce platform, you should expect the respective manufacturers to offer solutions to these problems. On the contrary, they often rely on emergency solutions and invest exclusively in the development of new features. The pitch still works like this, because many shop operators still choose their e-commerce platform looking at the length of the list of features offered instead of the quality of the system architecture. It is advisable, though, to check in detail to what extent the standard software really meets your own requirements.
In many projects I have accompanied throughout the past years, said extent was rarely particularly high. This is often due to the fact that shop operators and manufacturers have completely different ideas of how the function works "correctly". Basically, you should ask yourself: Which special feature could be able to improve the conversion rate as effectively as a short loading time?
In contrast, there are pure online players like Amazon, Zalando or ABOUT YOU, who have identified a good architecture as the key to success and therefore have developed their own platforms. And that is paying off today: They are scalable, extremely powerful, highly customisable and data-driven. This helps them to improve user experience in even more areas and to surpass themselves over and over again.
Spryker: The method of resolution?
Spryker detected the problems – and also solved them. They created their Commerce OS, a platform addressing the main flaws that established shop systems struggle with. The focus lies on a scalable high-performance architecture enabling shop operators to compete despite the lack of large development teams.
Where does most of the e-commerce traffic go?
If you look at the average traffic distribution on the individual pages of an online shop, you will notice that at least 60% of the queries refer to the catalogue in order to find the right products and information – in the case of TV advertising, the proportion is even higher.
Performance-oriented architecture of Spryker
That is why Spryker converted a shop into two separate applications. The frontend (Yves) facing the customer and the backend (Zed) containing the business logic. Both parts of the application are horizontally and separately scalable and can thus react to the needs of each individual customer. Other than in conventional shop systems, the entire business logic is not automatically executed for each individual access to the shop, but only if it is really relevant, e.g. for "add-to-cart", login or checkout. As long as none of these actions is performed, all information is available via an ultra-fast in-memory database, which enables delivery times of 50-70 ms.
The Performer Behind User Experience
In e-commerce today, performance is one of the most important factors for success. Customers expect fast response times, no matter if they are shopping online on a sunny Wednesday morning or Black Friday. The big players are demonstrating that quick loading times are possible – and thus determine the standards of the market. Therefore, every online shop nowadays has to be able to compete with them. If you own an online shop, my recommendation for your next relaunch is to approach the platform selection from a different point of view: Don't ask about feature XY, but rather concentrate on the foundation: How fast is the system? What do you do to reduce caching time? Does the software architecture endorse a performance-oriented approach?
Only this way will you be able to choose a platform with which your company will continue to grow in the future and with which you can adapt to the constantly changing rules.