Website Performance Anxiety—How Does Your User Experience Stack Up?

Posted on by Yancy Oshita

media app icons flying around globe on tablet computerThe marketer’s role has changed significantly in recent years, due largely to the demands of digital business. A decade ago, the idea of marketing teams needing to be overly concerned with IT would have seemed ridiculous. Today, this is the new reality.

The Impact of Digitalization

Online shoppers are savvier than ever, expecting nothing but the fastest, most reliable and convenient shopping experiences from any location or device. When customers’ expectations are on the rise (as they have been in recent years), poorly performing websites and mobile sites — those that are slow, sluggish, and overall frustrating to end users — can have a growing negative impact on a business. Industry statistics show that the average online retailer is vulnerable to a seven percent decline in conversions for every added second of webpage response time slowdown. This puts marketing teams in a complicated position, considering the fact that most contemporary marketing practices involve heavy third-party content that has the tendency to fatten webpages and make them slower.

For this reason, marketers are left with no choice but to closely consider the role and limitations of IT in supporting marketing content while maintaining excellent performance – in the form of fast, high-quality end-user experiences. Along with product, price, promotion, and place, performance needs to be the fifth “P” of the marketing mix.

Deploying a performance-focused marketing strategy should consist of three key steps:

  1. Recognize that new technologies bring business value, too.

While it’s sometimes easy to argue that there is an overabundance of new technologies for businesses, there are some that have become an absolute necessity. One, an end-user experience monitoring (EUM) platform, delivers critical visibility into how the objects, particularly marketing content, on a website are impacting performance. This insight makes it easier and faster to identify and resolve issues – for example, removing a slow-loading video or another visual element – ideally before end users are impacted.

Despite the benefits that an EUM tool can bring to a business, it’s still not always an easy sell to executive-level individuals because of the steep price tags and complex installment processes. Fortunately, as the impact of user experience on the bottom-line becomes clearer, more companies are signing on.

A recent Gartner survey found that 46 percent of enterprises named EUM as the most important dimension of digital performance management, while 49 percent said that enhancing service quality was their primary motivator for rationalizing digital performance management purchases.

  1. Build a partnership between marketing and IT.

As noted, heavy marketing content can often strain websites and mobile sites, hurting their performance. This is a key reason why companies must forge strong partnerships between marketing and IT departments. Timing is also an important factor in this process. Prior to the launch of a new campaign is the time for marketers to coordinate with IT and ensure that all optimization best practices (for example, image compression and asynchronous loading, which prevents one slow-loading marketing element from holding up an entire page download) are followed. Content prioritization is an example of when IT input is dire. It may be discovered that certain visual elements slow load times too much and aren’t worth compromising the end-user experience.

  1. Support IT with the tools required to deliver exceptional online experiences.

There should be a certain standard within an organization when it comes to the performance of its websites and mobile sites. Having said that, it’s equally important that a business not devote all of its IT resources to performance monitoring at all times, because surely IT has other responsibilities.

Deploying a synthetic (also known as active) monitoring tool can help alleviate the pressure on IT without risking performance degradation. Synthetic monitoring leverages traffic generated from the cloud, to simulate real user experiences. This gives IT and marketing teams the visibility they need to catch performance issues related to marketing content and resolve them proactively and swiftly. Real-user (also known as passive) measurement is another dimension of performance monitoring that captures what real end users are doing once they actually enter a site. This allows IT to prioritize areas for performance optimization, by identifying critical landing pages and conversion paths.

In a digital world, the customer experience is delicate and can be damaged beyond repair in a matter of seconds. The online business world is brimming with competition, and all it takes is one slow page load or a transaction issue for an end user to navigate away from one site and head to a competitor. Increasingly, the end-user experience is the make-or-break point in digital business. Website and mobile site performance is therefore as crucial as pricing, product, promotion, and place, and marketers must be sure to give performance its due attention.

Yancy Oshita is CMO of Catchpoint Systems.



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