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Web Page Loading Time Seen as Increasongly Critical Component of Web Retail Experience

Web Page Loading Time Seen as Increasongly Critical Component of Web Retail Experience

Sandra M. Jones/Chicago Tribune

Two seconds. That is how long a typical online shopper will wait for a retailer’s Web page to load before getting frustrated.

In three seconds, 40 percent of shoppers will abandon the shopping site completely, according to a study conducted by Forrester Research Inc. for Akamai Technologies Inc.

The findings, slated to be released Monday, come as retailers head into the critical holiday shopping season relying more heavily than ever on their Web sites to spark sales. Online shopping is forecast to surge this holiday as bargain hunters comparison shop for the best deals.

The study, based on a survey of 1,048 online shoppers conducted in July, is aimed at measuring how customers’ online shopping expectations have changed in the past three years. The conclusion: Shoppers are more satisfied with their online shopping experience than in 2006, when a similar study was conducted. But they are also less forgiving of delays.

You can blame Google for that.

“Google is so fast with its search engine that it has trained us all to expect an immediate response,” said Margaret Rivera, marketing manager for e-commerce at Akamai, a Boston-based firm that works with firms to route Internet traffic efficiently.

Consumers have become noticeably less patient since the 2006 study, which found that the majority of online shoppers could wait four seconds for a shopping site to load before becoming annoyed.

The latest survey found that the longer it takes for a Web page to load, the more likely a shopper will get distracted: 39 percent will begin another task on their computer, 23 percent will walk away from their computer and 14 percent will begin shopping at another site.

Speed is vital, particularly with young shoppers who have grown up tethered to their cell phones and laptops. Urban Outfitters, for example, aims to have its Web pages loaded in less than a second, Rivera said.

Retailers have struggled for years to make online shopping effortless. But inevitably each holiday season, some of the biggest retailers — including Wal-Mart, Sears and J. Crew — have gotten caught with their Web sites down during peak traffic periods.

“You want your online store to be no different from your physical store,” said Rivera. “Imagine a chain store closing for a half-hour on busy shopping days. That would be a catastrophe.”

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