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Ecommerce platform comparison: Site speed

Connor Martyn

Your ecommerce platform is a critical part of your business, and it should enable you to design, build, maintain and grow your online store in line with your goals and ambitions.

And there are many platforms out there to help you do just that - the question is, how do you pick the right one for your business?

There’s plenty to consider when selecting your chosen platform, from ease of use and functionality, to the cost of infrastructure. But don’t let yourself fall into the trap of focusing purely on the here and now; yes, the process of setting up your online store is important, but not nearly as important as it’s long-term performance.

The Importance of Site Speed

Easily the biggest factor to consider when thinking about how your online store will work on a day-to-day basis is site speed. It’s an easily overlooked area, especially when you’re presented with so many great options for additional functionality, but it’s one that can make all the difference when it comes to conversions.

In recent years, there’s been a lot of research carried out on the impact of website loading speed on sales figures. For instance, research by Portent suggested that the ideal load time for a webpage was between 0 and 4 seconds, with the highest conversion rates occurring with load times between 0 and 2 seconds.

Meanwhile, Unbounce reported that nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online store.

In fact, there is a point at which your website’s load time bottoms out, meaning that any further reduction in speed is unlikely to have a significant impact on conversion rates. This is known as the performance poverty line, and is generally given at around 7 to 8 seconds load time.

The bottom line is that if your site speed is 7 seconds or longer, you’re missing valuable conversion opportunities.

Despite the well-documented importance of site speed, our own research suggests that many could be falling victim to slow site speed. Using Google Lighthouse, we investigated nearly 1,200 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) sites, and 2,300 sites built on an Open Source platform. We found that more than 400 SaaS sites had a load time of greater than 10 seconds, and this figure rose to 1,127 for Open Source sites.

With the potential to dramatically increase your conversion rate, site speed is a critical consideration when building or replatforming your online store. In our latest blog, we consider the most popular platform types - including Software-as-a-Services, Open Source and bespoke set-ups - and look at how each can impact the speed of your online store.

Software-as-a-Service Platforms

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms, such as Shopify, are very popular among many retailers. Online stores are quick and easy to set up, they are scalable, and the site is hosted in the cloud, meaning you don’t have to worry about where or how much it will cost to host.

However, the ease of set-up does come with downsides. Firstly, because it’s hosted in a cloud-based environment, you have no control over where the site sits and the continued performance of your website is totally reliant on your platform of choice. This in turn can have an impact on your site speed; it’s likely to perform well enough, but the scope to improve is limited.

Secondly, a basic subscription is unlikely to cover all the functionality you are looking for. To add enhanced capability, you’ll need to link external apps and add-ons (at extra cost!), which can in turn have a detrimental impact on your website’s performance. And the more apps you have, the worse the impact will become.

When using SaaS platforms to host your website, it’s a good idea to keep a track of the apps you’re using and what impact they have, both good and bad. For example, a Live Chat function may seem like a great way of giving your customers an easy way to communicate with you, but how often is it likely to be used?

Open Source Platforms

Open Source (OS) platforms, such as Magneto or WooCommerce, are highly customisable and scalable. Unlike SaaS platforms, the OS framework can handle complex retail requirements, and is often the go-to for mid-tier or enterprise level businesses.

However, quite a high level of technical know-how is needed to set up and maintain an Open Source platform that works efficiently and rapidly, and you don’t have access to much technical support.

This can also make it expensive to host and operate; they aren’t ready hosted like SaaS platforms, so you’ll need your own environment and domain. The upside is that this gives you more control and flexibility, provided you have the in-house knowledge to make the most of the opportunities this presents.

When it comes to enhancing your website, there are Open Source modules that are available to you. Again, it pays here to have some technical expertise in-house to review any additional modules before you install them; it’s always worth keeping in mind that Open Source coding could be poorly built or cause difficulties integrating with the rest of your website. This could cause your website to slow right down, and your sales along with it!

Bespoke Platforms

Bespoke platforms can offer a great deal of opportunity for many retailers. Creating your own environment means you have total control over its functionality, infrastructure and design - meaning the basic build blocks of a high-speed online store are entirely in your hands. This can offer plenty of benefits, but be prepared to commit a lot of time and resources to the project.

The biggest problem with bespoke platforms is that, once built, they can be difficult to scale up or adapt. Whereas you can look for an app or Open Source module in a SaaS or Open Source environment, these won’t always work for a bespoke solution.

Instead, you’ll be tied into adding bespoke modules, which can lead to a mish-mash of legacy coding and solutions that are no longer fit-for-purpose. Before long, your once perfect website is heavily distorted from its original design and brief, and making any new improvements requires a significant amount of development time.

Not only that, but the more you add, the more complex your solution becomes, and the more likely it is that your website will begin to slow down.

The Aero Platform

The Aero platform can offer the best of all worlds - all while protecting your site speed.

The platform provides a functionally streamlined, high-performance solution, with all the accessibility of open source, along with full technical support. It offers lean running costs, and a variety of themes that can help you get started straight out-of-the-box. Alternatively, retailers can craft and customise their own framework, based on Aero’s core functionality and strong ecommerce foundation.

Most importantly, we built the Aero platform to be lightning fast; it offers a page load time of 1.6 seconds, enabling a potential 2% conversion rate.

This gives you a highly competitive site speed from the start, and means that your ecommerce site has the essential foundation it needs to function efficiently as a sales vehicle.

Want to learn more about building your next site on the Aero platform? Get in touch today.

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