The Online Shopper's Need For Speed

June 25, 2009 will be remembered in many memories as the day Michael Jackson died, but for those of us working the front lines of Internet infrastructure June 25, 2009 will be the day our servers and the patience of millions of users was tested with the news of Michael Jackson’s death. Here at RichRelevance we were prepared, and easily managed increased traffic across several of our customers, including and

But many other sites were slow to load (if they loaded at all!) — and it wasn’t the first time web users have experienced the frustration of waiting for a slow web site to load. We’ve all waited a few seconds, hit reload, hit the back button, or tried various other tricks to try to get the content we are looking for to load. Eventually, we give up and move on to some other site.

That’s the extreme version of a slow web site creating a bad customer experience and driving users away, but it turns out that much smaller delays in serving pages to users can significantly drive down user engagement and conversion. Large scale studies from high-traffic sites like and Google have shown that every tenth of a second matters. Just last week, engineers from some of the best known properties on the internet gathered for the O’Reilly Velocity conference on web site performance. The overwhelming theme of the conference was that speed matters, and empirical study after empirical study continues to demonstrate this. Nowhere is that more true than in online retail. As you will see as you continue reading, it is critical that retailers fully understand all the components and services that render the various parts of their pages and ensure that everything is delivered to the customer’s screen as quickly as possible.

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