Mobile Retail Web Sites Must Improve to Draw Users

Retailers must improve the usability of their mobile Web sites if they want more consumers to use them, according to a new study from San Mateo, Calif.-based mobile and Internet research firm Keynote Competitive Research.

“Shopping on mobile Web sites still has a lot of catching up to do in both download performance and uptime when compared to the performance of connected Web sites,” said Ben Rushlo, senior manager of Internet technologies at Keynote.

Using a proprietary tool called the Keynote Mobile Application Perspective, the company measured the performance of 10 retail mobile Web sites during the critical shopping weeks from Nov. 18, 2009, to Jan. 4, 2010. The 10 sites included in “The Keynote Mobile Holiday Shopping Study” were Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Costco, Dell, Foot Locker, Musicians Friend, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart.

The study measured the download performance for three pages on each site: loading the mobile site home page, searching for product, and getting information about a specific product. Measurements were taken from two markets (New York and San Francisco) using AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon wireless data connections.

Home page average times among mobile sites studied ranged from 8.3 seconds in the best case of Best Buy, to 34.4 seconds in the worst case. Search results ranged from 4.5 seconds for Wal-Mart, to 37.9 seconds; and product information download time ranged from 5.7 seconds turned in by Foot Locker, to 26.8 seconds.

“Consumers on the wired Web are used to much, much faster times, and often expect pages to load in two seconds or less,” said Rushlo. “Even the best mobile Web sites take two to three times as long as that, despite being optimized heavily for the mobile phone experience, and the worst sites are taking over a half a minute on average to load each page.”

The study also revealed that mobile Web sites have much higher error rates than non-mobile sites. The overall range of availability was between 97.6 percent for Foot Locker to just 74.7 percent. Consumers on the wired Web expect 99.5 percent or better availability, so even the best mobile Web sites aren’t fully meeting expectations. In fact, the Keynote study found that only two mobile sites achieved an overall availability better than 90 percent, and three sites were below 80 percent overall.

Other areas examined in the study included load-handling ability, holiday traffic, category traffic, error rates, and network carriers used.

The Keynote Mobile Holiday Shopping Study is available for purchase at
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