Introduction:

How the big brand name e-commerce sites handle the heavy traffic on Cyber Monday is always of great interest to our team and our readers. So this year, we decided to run a short experiment on some of the top companies to bring you the best and the worst performers this Cyber Monday.

The 28 companies we chose to test included companies who had painful Cyber Monday crashes in previous years, companies who were running fantastic online deals, and companies that are known to have huge volumes of online holiday shopping traffic.

Experiment:

We ran WebPageTest, an open source performance testing tool, on all 28 companies. All tests were run on Chrome browsers from Dulles, VA at approximately the same times. The first set of tests were run on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 and the second set of tests were run on Cyber Monday, December 1, 2014.

As we categorized the companies based on performance, the most significant factor we considered for this article was time to first byte. Stay tuned for another article where we discuss the speed index and page load times on Cyber Monday.

The reason this article focuses on time to first byte is because it is very significantly tied to perceived load time. If a user waits several seconds and doesn’t see anything loading on the page, he or she is highly likely to abandon the website. However, even if the whole page takes over 10 seconds to load, as long as the user sees progress quickly, he or she can begin looking at the page and is much more likely to stay on the website.

Results

We have ranked the companies into five categories:

  • Excellent performance on both days
  • Moderate performance on both days
  • Poor performance on both days
  • Poor performance on Wednesday that improved on Monday
  • Moderate performance on Wednesday, poor performance on Monday

Excellent Performance Both Days

Eight companies in our study showed top performance on both Wednesday and Cyber Monday. All of the companies in this group scored an impressive A or B first byte letter score, as assigned by WebPageTest and the highest time to first byte was only 0.315 seconds- Impressive.

Moderate Performance Both Days

Seven companies had moderate performance on both Wednesday and Cyber Monday. These companies were significantly slower than the top performers, but still maintained decent speeds. These companies had scores of B’s or C’s according to WebPageTest. By our assessment, these companies maintained acceptable, but not excellent times.

Poor Performance Both Days

Five companies in our study had notable performance failures on both Monday and Wednesday. All sites in this group had over a 0.75 second time to first byte, which WebPageTest ranks as a F in their scoring system for time to first byte. Most of these sites had over a full second wait before the first byte was transferred- which is a sign that these sites were overwhelmed by the traffic load.

The level of performance in this category most likely had a significant impact on Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday sales. As we have seen proven time and again by various studies, web performance directly affects conversions. With such significant delays before seeing anything loading on the page, it is very likely that would-be customers left these websites for competitors.

Poor performance on Wednesday that improved on Monday

This particular category is not one that we were expecting to see at all. In fact, we initially chose to test on Wednesday as a control group to measure against Cyber Monday. However, a quick poll in our office revealed that most of us had started our online shopping early. It is my theory that these particular companies had extra servers ready for Monday, but did not expect such a heavy load of traffic on Wednesday and were therefore unprepared. It is also possible that when the companies noticed performance failures on Wednesday, they made significant changes over the weekend and then were ready for the Cyber Monday rush.

I’m sure that each of these companies has their own story of WHY their performance was poor on Wednesday and then improved by Monday, but all we can tell you is that it happened.

Moderate performance on Wednesday, poor performance on Monday

The previous category was a bit of a surprise to our team. This category, however, was completely expected. As we see every year, there are some companies that just struggle to handle the amount of traffic that hits on Cyber Monday. Check out the differences:

Conclusion:

Web performance is a top concern for any e-commerce business because it has been proven time and again to be directly tied to conversions. Just a one second delay in load time has been proven to cause a 7% decrease in conversions, 11% fewer page views, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. With stakes so high, being prepared for the rush of traffic on Cyber Monday is a must for all e-commerce businesses.

Overall, a large portion of the sites we looked at had good web performance on these important days. Even though there are always some websites with poor performance, the general trend is that most websites included in our study were prepared for the rush of traffic.

Feel free to share your Cyber Monday online shopping experiences in the comments! Did you encounter any poor performing websites?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail