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How website & application performance impacts customer experience & loyalty

I had the opportunity to present how website and app performance impacts customer experience as part of the Sitecore Digital Survivor Series.

For those that missed the session I have summarised some of the key outtakes in the blog below.

For those that prefer watching it you can do that right here:

It’s a long post so I’ve used anchor menu links so you can jump to what interests you.

  1. Brand loyalty is dead, but brand experience has never been more alive.
  2. When digital channel fail, your business fails. Examples and lessons.
  3. Speed matters – but websites are getting heavier, slower and more complex.
  4. Where do I start?

Brand Loyalty is dead, but brand experience has never been more alive.

We don’t speak with people anymore as part of our brand experience, we transact via apps and websites. This makes it awfully hard to create amazing brand experiences.


I love to highlight the ‘then and now’ by using the story of my Dad, who ran a hardware store for 30 years. People bought from him because they were loyal to him, and he loved providing a great experience for customers by being personal, helpful and jovial.


But you know the story today, we are spending more time in our apps than we ever have before, and if we don’t speak with our banks, insurance companies, telcos, well then that’s a good thing.

A good brand experience today is about convenience and saving us time.


But the reality is, digital delivery has never been more complex. You quite literally need to be a wizard.

  • Consumers are fussier, more impatient, and less tolerant to bad experiences than ever.
  • Devices and operating systems are growing exponentially. 24k different android devices last year which is up 28%. Just wait until IOT causes even more complexity.
  • We are adding more complexity to our websites so we are making it harder to create a simple, fast experience.
  • And in the IT world, we are needing to scale, and to deliver services in new ways with Cloud and Micro Services being the new normal.


Unfortunately, despite all this software is still developed and monitored by humans (most of the time anyway). And we are not perfect. We make mistakes, we get lazy and we like to go the pub.

Which is how failures occur. Mostly human error. Trick is to minimise the impact of our own stupidity.

When your digital channels fail, your business fails. But what are the lessons?

The adage your business doesn’t run apps, apps run your business could not be more true. Digital delivery is hard, but in mistakes come some fairly important lessons. Those that will succeed in today’s digital economy need to be continually learning and adapting if they are going to survive.



The first lesson came from the #censusfail.

  • I think the biggest mistake was marketing a single evening, asking everyone to log on to a site at once. Why put so much pressure on systems and people if historically it had not been done before? The event should have had a controlled release by state, not a single rush.
  • The testing methodology seemed a somewhat underdeveloped. Public statements suggested the system could cope with 1 million transactions per hour but there are 24+ million Australian citizens!

A gold medal app takes years of development


You don’t become a successful digital business overnight. It takes years of hard work, learning and development. Sounds pretty similar to getting into the Olympics doesn’t it? Hard work, lessons, practice, tenacity?

Resultantly I was not surprised to see:

  • Channel 7’s Olympic app, released just before the biggest show on earth, suffering fairly critical feedback. What training do they have?
  • On the flip side the BBC has enjoyed plenty of positive commentary as their app was fine-tuned from years of development, but also historically they’ve got the digital experience.

I always feel for tech teams who are under pressure to execute on tight deadlines and often tight budgets. But you don’t win a gold medal by accident. It takes years, as does a great mobile app.

Pushing mistakes via email


As marketers we forget that websites can crash when we push a lot of people to turn up at the same time. I recently received a great email offer from a major Australian brand. It was so good, and was sent to so many people at once, that it crashed the website.

Same lesson as #CensusFail.

  • Stagger your email sends
  • Work with your IT on performance testing.

But what if you turned a negative into a positive?


Mistakes will happen, but today the opportunity to turn negatives into a positive is a huge competitive advantage.

Seeing app failures and website crashes in real-time, and proactively reaching out to your customers to rectify, will turn those people from detractors into massive brand advocates.

What this means is, your social and support team is no longer a cost centre. It’s a massive competitive advantage.


Speed matters – but websites are getting slower, heavier and more complex

Amazon cares about milliseconds, because milliseconds impact user experience, and user experience impacts revenue.


  • An increase in 100ms cost Amazon 1% in revenue
  • A reduction in 100ms improved Walmart’s revenue by 1%

But I’m skeptical so I asked the performance engineering at Nordstrom.

Nordstrom: What’s the impact of response time on revenue?


In Australia in 2015, Senior Performance Engineer Gopal Brugalette shared that the peak conversion rate during a key sale period was 2.5 seconds. A 0.5 second increase reduced conversions by 11%.

Internally they now make decisions based on the customer experience impact on conversions.

What’s concerning is that, globally, retail response times are increasing year on year.


  • In the last year, worldwide retail response times grew slower from 4.2 to 4.5 seconds.
  • Australia is the worst performing country and experienced the biggest increase year on year.
  • We added more 3rd party hosts, bigger pages, and longer pages.

But if you are going to compete with the best then you need to compare yourself to the best of the best.


We’ve always said the golden rule is 3 seconds. It’s now 2. Maybe it’s 2.5 to be exact.

What should you do? Where do you start?

Lastly I want to re-cap on my thoughts about basic digital performance improvement. In my latest webinar with Sitecore I shared how you can:


I cannot recommend highly enough how useful it is if you have your own digital experience dashboard like seen above. It will tell you that everything is ok, and if it’s not ok, why not.


Reality is things will go wrong. Someone will inject a new piece of code or third party that will cause an issue. Yep that’s us humans making mistakes again.


What’s crucial is that you can see immediately is errors have happened. In the case above, I can see immediately that our web team has added a third party which wreaked havoc on my remote regions.

I picked up the issue immediately because the Dynatrace platform told me there was an issue and what the issue was.

Consequently, the problem fixed in an hour. That means our users are happy again.

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