Mixed Reviews for E-Commerce Sites

Online shopping sites received mixed performance reviews during the just-ended holiday shopping season, with overall performance “fair,” according to a report released Wednesday by Keynote Systems.

FedEx.com, VictoriasSecret.com, Buy.com and LandsEnd.com led in terms of overall speed and availability, according to Keynote, an Internet performance-measurement company based in San Mateo, California.

However, the length of time it took to complete a transaction “varied widely” between sites, Keynote said.

“The good news is that many sites performed acceptably well,” said Dan Todd, chief technologist of Keynote’s public services division. “The bad news is that some e-commerce sites still are not immune to performance slowdowns in the face of heavy traffic.”

Added Todd: “Where online customer quality of experience is concerned, sites need to be prepared for ‘traffic storms’ of the kind we see during the holidays.”

Keynote measured the performance and availability of 30 top e-commerce Web sites beginning November 5th. The report also incorporates transaction statistics from 12 sites tracked by Keynote.

Fast, Not Furious

The fastest sites during the holiday shopping season were FedEx.com, VictoriasSecret.com, Buy.com, Dell.com, LandsEnd.com and KBKids.com, which saw average download time of fewer than two seconds in Keynote’s study.

In general, Keynote said that Web sites performed the slowest during Thanksgiving week, with sites including Bluelight.com, EddieBauer.com, Gap.com, Walmart.com, Gateway.com and Hallmark.com taking twice as long as usual to download.

In subsequent weeks, performance “improved steadily,” the report said. For example, Bluelight.com and Macys.com were slow throughout the season, but in the week of December 3rd, the sites showed “marked improvement,” taking fewer than eight seconds to download.

In terms of transaction performance, Keynote said that the leaders were LandsEnd.com, Jcrew.com, LLBean.com and Eddiebauer.com.

One Step Forward

“Given the individual site problems and ups and downs even among those sites doing better, it appears that there continues to be plenty of room for improvement when it comes to delivering a top-quality experience to online customers,” Keynote said.

Still, the report found, e-tailers performed better in terms of time and availability than they did last year. Overall performance was 66.24 percent better during the week before Thanksgiving this year than in the corresponding week last year.

The week of December 3rd was the most frustrating for online shoppers, according to the study. It took an average of 15.5 seconds to complete a transaction during that week, according to Keynote’s data.

Homework for 2001

E-tailers would do well to work on speed and availability as e-commerce gains in popularity, Keynote said.

“Consistently high levels of performance and availability across all Internet access points around the world are crucial to attracting and retaining online customers in the highly competitive marketplace of the World Wide Web,” Keynote chairman and chief executive officer Umang Gupta said.

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