I recently attended the Online Retailer Conference in Sydney, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to survey the audience.  I recalled a conversation I had with a journalist a few months ago, who said

‘I don’t think anyone monitors apps in Australia.  The developers build them; then they just throw them over the fence’.

He mentioned a few examples of some Blue Chip Australian companies who put applications out but don’t have any monitoring in place. I had a feeling this was the case, but I wanted to validate that not only did we not monitor our mobile applications in Australia, but we are pretty slack at monitoring our websites as well. The survey my team put together included 5 simple questions around mobile and website monitoring.  We gathered 100 responses, and ensured that all respondents were in some way responsible, accountable, or part of a team that owns an e-Commerce website.  Sure, it’s not the entire Australian online marketplace, but it’s a great sample of website owners: from small business, right through to teams working within enterprise organisations. I suspected we were pretty laid back when it came to monitoring, but seriously I was not ready for the answers we received!

Website and Mobile Monitoring in Australian eCommerce
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Only 14% of respondents regularly track the load time of their websites 

This is really astonishing, considering how crucial load times are to end user satisfaction. As one of the fastest loading retail sites in the world, Amazon truly understands the need for speed; a 100ms delay causes a 1% drop in revenue, which in 2009 equated to $245 million (source). Microsoft found that an increase of 500ms of delays on its page loads resulted in losing 1.2% in revenue per user (source) The business case for enhancing load times is not new, but the message clearly isn’t resonating in Australia. Dynatraces’s APM Benchmarks, which regularly tests the top online properties for load times and availability, has Australian retail averages at a 5.8 second homepage load time, vs the US retail homepage load time of 2.9 seconds. This is testing from a data centre to data centre network (backbone) and is really a best case scenario. The last mile network is where things get really interesting.  Last mile is testing from remote locations and is typical of what a ‘real user’ would experience.

A real user in Australia can enjoy an 11.7 second wait for the homepage vs 6.6 seconds in the US.

Sure blame the network speeds – Australia ranks 44th in the world – but from my own analysis, a number of these top retailers could easily shave time, with ongoing optimisation.

70% of respondents find out that their Website is down through customers, or by randomly stumbling on it

I had a laugh when interviewing people for this one One guy said to me “the guys have the website open all day so we know if it’s down”. To which I responded…”Do they have it open all night as well?”  “Are you a 9-5 online retail store?” If you’re an online retailer and your website is down, your shop is closed. Furthermore 79% of online shoppers that are dissatisfied with web performance are less likely to buy from that site again. (source) So it’s worth being a little more proactive when it comes to ensuring the site is active so you can build a loyal customer base.

84% of respondents do not have monitoring for mobile applications

In a race to get an app out the door, the majority of respondents had forgotten the importance of monitoring the application for user experience and optimisation. These days you wouldn’t have a website without Google Analytics or Omniture Sitecatlyst would you?  And yet we put mobile applications in the market that have the potential to cause significant customer and brand damage if not monitored effectively.   Harris Interactive found 90% felt badly about brands with poorly performing apps. 75% described annoyance and 69% frustration – typically caused by a slow or hard to navigate app – carried over into their perception of the brand. She’ll be right mate….

Only 9% of respondents review mobile end user performance against desktop performance

Last week, I bought a case of wine, from a tweet, whilst standing on a train in Melbourne.  Easy. Our expectations as consumers have sky rocketed.  A Compuware survey found 71% of global mobile Web users expect Web sites to load as quickly, almost as quickly, or faster on their mobile phone compared to the computer they use at home. Is your mobile site loading in 3 seconds or less?  91% of respondents didn’t know.

In Summary:

The majority of my assumptions, that Australia is highly immature when it comes to Web site and mobile performance monitoring, were validated in this survey.  The responses I got were actually more dramatic than I anticipated.  Sure, Australian e-Commerce is on the rise, but with overseas, more mature players entering the market, Australian retailers can’t afford to take the ‘she’ll be right mate – attitude”. I’ll save you the best quote I heard for last:

“We know we have to do it, we just aren’t”.

If you’re not doing it, then your competitor will.