Guest post by Chris Tweten.
Patience is a virtue—but time is more precious than gold. In the case of eCommerce, the patience of your customers is thin, but their time spent on your site browsing products turn into your gold.
A few seconds isn’t much time, but it could be the deciding factor between a website visitor buying a product or abandoning your site. This is where eCommerce page speed optimization becomes incredibly valuable.
Why is Page Load Speed Important for eCommerce?
Based on Google research, the bounce rate of a site can increase by as much as 32% when page load speeds go from one to three seconds. The longer the load time, the higher the bounce rate.
In addition, Shopify statistics state that a mere one-second improvement in loading times can increase conversions by up to 27%.
Skilled also did a study suggesting that 47% of customers expect sites to finish loading within two seconds. Smartphone users expect your site to load in four seconds.
Seven Tips to Increase eCommerce Page Load Speeds
To increase page load speed for your eCommerce site (or any website), follow these seven easy, actionable steps.
By their nature, eCommerce sites will have a ton of images uploaded. But the more images you need to load, the slower your site gets.
For eCommerce, it’s best to keep your photo image file size to less than 70kB. Here are solutions that don’t require you to compromise quality for quantity:
- Compress images using sites like Squoosh.
- Choose the right image format (JPEG or WEBP).
- Resize photos.
Leverage Browser Caching
Applying browser caching can help you load site elements faster. You can cache several site elements from images, static resources, object data such as PDFs, and other media files.
You can leverage browser caching by accessing your “.htaccess” file and inserting code or using plugins to make this easier.
Minify your HTML, CSS & JS files
Web browsers translate lines of code and interpret them into what you see on screen. The fewer lines of code, the faster you get to see the elements. Your HTML, CSS, and JS files can easily be minified through plugins. One of the most popular is WP Rocket.
Use a CDN
Users can access your site faster depending on several factors—location being one of them. The closer a prospective customer is to your server, the faster your pages load. If they’re far away, load times can be slow.
CDNs (content delivery networks) help host your store’s content on servers worldwide. It caches your content closer to where a user is geographically located, making images and videos load faster.
Prioritize Above-the-Fold Content
Not every piece of content can be seen at the same time. So it’s better to prioritize loading elements that site visitors will always see first.
Above-the-fold content is basically content that you see first without having to scroll down. Every piece of content on the first viewable screen should be the first to load.
You can try to “slow load” elements below the fold to ensure resources aren’t used up trying to load content there. There are several plugins available that can help you do this.
Optimize for Mobile Devices
Always prioritize mobile site speed. According to Outerbox Design, at least 79% of smartphone users have bought products online in the past six months.
Here are some quick tips to optimize page speed for mobile devices:
- Minimize redirects
- Put CSS at the top and JaveScript at the bottom
- Update your PHP version
- Use Gzip compression to reduce the file sizes
- Minimize HTTP requests
Upgrade to a Bare Metal Server
There are lots of acceptable cloud servers you could choose from. But this means that your server’s power is split among other clients. With bare metal servers, you’ve got it all to yourself.
Bare metal servers are physical servers built for performance. If you expect your eCommerce website to have heavy workloads, switching to a bare metal server ensures fast speeds.
Bare Metal Servers Vs Cloud Servers
For consistency, power, and security, bare metal servers are a no-brainer. But the upfront costs may be a bit more expensive compared to cloud servers.
To help you decide, here are three of the most important factors to consider when it comes to bare versus cloud servers:
Virtual Machines (VM) or cloud servers have flexible pricing options. Bare metal servers have higher upfront costs.
You can expect the price of a bare metal server to range from $162 per month for entry-level to $500 for higher-end models.
Using a bare metal server means having all the server resources to yourself. That includes the RAM, processing speed, memory bandwidth, and storage. This can equate to faster loading times for your eCommerce website.
With cloud servers, you share these resources with other tenants who host on the same server. Performance may suffer because of this, especially during high load periods.
A dedicated server also gives the following performance benefits:
- Virtually no network congestion;
- Faster server response times even during peak traffic hours; and
- Less downtime.
There are two main reasons dedicated servers have better performance than cloud servers:
- Hypervisor-caused latency: Running virtual machines produces a 5% to 10% overhead on server resources. This can cause latency and packet delays.
- Shared Resources: If a tenant that hosts on the same server uses resource-heavy applications, other tenants may see a significant performance drop.
According to PheonixNap, this can cause a 20% to 30% performance loss which can result in bottlenecks and unwanted downtime.
Virtual machines win in terms of scalability because you don’t need to worry about hardware. You can adjust or resize VMs to meet your needs—be it an upgrade or downgrade.
There’s even an option to split dynamic workloads between virtual machines. This means you can scale up or down depending on what you need to do.
But with bare metal servers, you need to pay to get a physical upgrade. If needs keep growing, you’d need to add more components and go through the deployment process again.
Every eCommerce website needs to be fast and accessible. Slow page load times can be detrimental to your store’s revenue.
To optimize your eCommerce shop’s page load speeds, consider the following:
- Optimize or compress your images.
- Use browser caching to improve the load speed of website content.
- Minify HTML, CSS, and JS files using plugins or manually.
- Upgrade to to a bare metal server for improved performance.
- Use techniques to optimize page speeds for mobile users.
Chris Tweten is the CMO at Spacebar Collective, a white hat SEO and content production agency based in Vancouver, Canada.