In the busy 21st century, a large proportion of people no longer have the time or the inclination to physically go to the shops to buy goods. Luckily, many can now do this instead via their phone, laptop or tablet. Made ever easier via applications for portable devices, it’s little wonder that online shopping is increasing so incredibly quickly.

Suffice to say, a business website is not just vital – it’s mandatory. Not offering users the convenience to buy a product online is sheer madness. However, not all websites are created equal. Research into internet behaviour reveals how and why some sites are vastly more successful than others.

Ultimately, it comes down to customer experience as determined by website speed. Getting that right means a business could be rewarded with a high number of visits, numerous conversions, a boost in brand awareness and a healthy bottom line. Getting it wrong could have severe ramifications in terms of exit rates and negative word of mouth publicity.

With that in mind, below are a few considerations that should be taken into account when trying to improve customers’ experience of a website:

The most annoying factor

Among the myriad surveys that have been carried out to determine users’ opinions about the internet, the biggest irritant typically cited is slow websites. Pages that don’t load quickly and requests that receive poor responses due to slow-running websites are two reasons why users will exit a site without progressing through to the checkout. Website speed is an extremely important customer experience factor; just consider your own good and bad online shopping encounters to empathise.

Increasing impatience

Website owners might be amazed at the impatience exhibited by users, which research shows has increased substantially over the years. In 2000, users were happy to wait eight seconds for a page to load. By 2005 this had dropped to five seconds and by 2009, users would wait only three seconds before navigating away, according to research by Akamai.

Even now, one in ten people will exit a site if they have to wait just one second for it to respond. It’s clear, therefore, that increasing a website’s speed will not only retain customers and improve their experience of the site. It will also offer serious benefits to the business regarding engagement and conversion.

The need for speed

Further research has shown that almost half of users will exit a site altogether if there are any IT issues, defecting usually to a competitor. Why let competitors gain that business? Improving the speed of a website and in turn regaining a customer base, could be as simple as switching servers. Better still, by using colocation services to host their server at a dedicated data centre, businesses may be able to access greater bandwidth – as well as reduced latency.

Quick navigation

Having speedy page loading times will also allow website users to navigate the website more easily. Even if the website isn’t perhaps laid out as best it could be, the frustrating aspect of this could be mitigated by at least allowing each page to load very quickly. For example, making their way to the checkout might not involve the easiest route, but if this is combined with slow loading times, the experience will be even worse. Remove at least one of these factors and you’re more likely to land a sale!

Statistics show that two-thirds of users who endure a bad customer experience online, for whatever reason, will shop elsewhere next time. It’s said that each one of them, on average, will tell ten people about their ordeal. Shopping online, it must not be forgotten, is supposed to offer convenience. By providing a more responsive, clearly displayed website, a business can almost guarantee customer satisfaction and expect repeat visits for years to come.