The Performance Beacon

The web performance, analytics, and optimization blog

Is your site ready for back-to-school shopping sprees?

Holiday readiness - website performance monitoring

This time of the year is a busy one for most families and students as they prepare for the end of summer and the start of school. Being ready for a return to the classroom means shopping—and back to school (BTS) shopping is BIG business. According to the National Retail Federation, average spending on back to school has grown 42 percent over the past 10 years, with total combined spending for back to school and college expected to reach a whopping $68 billion in 2015.

To further illustrate, the Backpack Index Survey from Huntington Bank in Columbus, Ohio, shows that parents are dishing out big money for school supplies. On average, they will spend $1,402 for each high school student, $941 for middle school kids and $649 for elementary school kids.

SOASTA has just completed its annual Back to School Shopping Report Card, and, for the second year in a row, the research has uncovered serious pitfalls when it comes to digital performance during one of the biggest shopping events of the year. Web and mobile app performance matters now more than ever before, and the e-commerce and m-commerce sites that do not have real-time visibility into user experience, conversion and monetization, will not maximize sales.

Our Back to School Shopping Report Card findings are consistent with our findings from Mother’s Day back in May when we determined that 2.5 seconds is the “magic number” in Page Load Time that produced the highest conversion rate. This finding is based on the aggregate data of over 81 million unique user sessions that SOASTA monitored on behalf of top online retailers, which do a booming business around Mother’s Day.

What do you think the “magic number” will be for BTS this year?

Top 10 report card findings

Our Back to School Shopping Report Card provides an insightful look into the user experience during this critical period for online retailers in the U.S. While most BTS shoppers plan to shop online, the majority finds the experience of making online purchases stressful. Here are our Top 10 findings:

  1. 91% of back to school online shoppers find making online purchases stressful.
  2. The top stressors are shipping costs (57%), out-of-stock inventory (51%) and not being able to see or test products before buying them (50%).
  3. However, even though back to school shoppers feel stressed while making their online purchases, a majority of them (55%) plan to shop online for the new school year regardless.
  4. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) plan to shop using their smartphones or tablets.
  5. Millennials are the most likely to shop online for back to school.
  6. Men and women are equally likely to shop online to get their families ready for back to school—66% of men ages 18-34 and 63% of women ages 18-34.
  7. The most popular items back to school shoppers plan to buy online are clothing (36%). One-third (33%) say general school supplies (such as pens, folders and notebooks) are on their online shopping lists.
  8. And good grooming does matter to some—13% of back to school online shoppers invest in beauty products, and 8% get haircuts before that all-important first day of school.
  9. SOASTA’s research revealed that nearly three-quarters (73%) of smartphone/tablet owners would use a shopping app such as Amazon, eBay and Zappos to do their shopping, and nearly half (49%) of mobile device owners would use a shopping app when looking at deals. Another popular occasion for using mobile shopping apps: for price comparisons when shopping in a store (37%).
  10. BTS shoppers also turn to mobile shopping apps to multitask when in boring situations. Specifically, 4% use mobile shopping apps when on boring dates, and 3% use them when in work meetings.

Performance = Money

Here at SOASTA we know how critical it is to the bottom line that online retailers ensure top digital performance during the BTS shopping spike. Digital businesses can only achieve maximum performance by monitoring, measuring, testing and optimizing their websites and mobile apps—during the back to school shopping season and year-round.

Is your site ready for the back-to-school tsunami

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Ann Ruckstuhl

About the Author

Ann Ruckstuhl

Ann has spent over two decades leading some of the most disruptive innovations in software-as-a-service, cloud computing, cybersecurity, e-commerce, data analytics, mobile software, networking and embedded system technologies. She is a leading advocate for better customer experience management and believes today's mobile and hyper-connected consumers deserve web and mobile applications that are fast, reliable and easy to use. Prior to SOASTA, Ann was Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at LiveOps. Ann also served in a variety of management roles at Symantec, Sybase (acquired by SAP), eBay and HP. Ann received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida.

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