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Kathy Morelli, Director of Digital Technology

#TechTuesday: Load Times

Instant gratification. For better or worse, that “I want what I want, when I want it and not a moment later” culture is a reality. If you want a good example of that, just sit in a Starbucks and watch app users get mad when the order they placed outside the shop two seconds earlier isn’t on the counter when they walk in.

Everyone is in a hurry; so much so that even the most convenient way to consume goods and information—the internet—isn’t living up to their expectations. In fact, expectations for website performance (specifically page load times) are soaring.

Research currently shows 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load. In addition, users are increasingly concerned about the amount of data they are using, facing monthly limits from wireless carriers and employers. So accessing webpages that currently average 2.3MB isn’t something users are willing to spend data (or overage charges) on.

These trends are having a serious impact on conversions. A one second delay in page response can cost a 7% reduction in conversions. For an e-commerce site making $100,000 per day, that means $2.5 million in lost sales every year. Which is why two of the biggest players—Facebook and Google—have made some big changes in how all content, including ads and websites, are served.

Facebook's recently shared plans state they will now factor in an advertiser’s website load time to their ad auction and delivery system. This change will potentially impact whether or not the target audience will see the ads. Facebook’s goal is to serve up the content that’s most relevant to your interests and habits; this change is designed to filter out low performing sites and ensure the content you see lives up to standards and expectations.

Similarly, Google’s work is designed to get the best performing sites to the top of the search rankings as, by their estimations, mobile sites loading within five seconds can earn up to twice the revenue of those at the 19 second industry average. But rather than put the onus on you to figure the page-load problem out yourself, they are providing features to help publishers improve performance.

As part of the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP), the recently announced AMP for Ads and AMP Landing Pages are aimed at reducing load time in these two areas of digital media, thereby improving web experiences and increasing revenue for publishers. Google says that AMP mobile web pages load 4x faster and use 10x less data on average than non-AMP mobile web pages.

This solution is appropriate for content pages with limited multimedia and can be used effectively to support thought leadership, as well as educational articles meant to support content strategy. However, AMP isn’t appropriate for all web content. In order to keep code lightweight, many interactive elements are not supported, including data capture forms that are commonly used to support lead generation strategies.

Clearly, we are all—regardless of industry—under pressure to find the right solution to reduce page load times and stay competitive. That’s true for universities trying to attract students; investment companies offering whitepapers on strategy; and main street retailers connecting with consumers online. So it’s critical that publishers and advertisers balance business objectives and audience behaviors against load times in order to implement a practical solution for their marketing plan. And help ensure increased engagement and conversions. 

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