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Online shopping has transformed the way consumers research, compare and purchase everything from crackers to computers and flat-screen TVs. As online transactions hit their 20-year milestone, Bigcommerce predicts worldwide B2C ecommerce revenues will reach $2 trillion in 2015.

But with the added volume and increasingly savvy buyers comes increased competition — achieving ecommerce success isn’t as easy today as in years past. To continuously grow sales, retailers need to constantly optimize their online stores. Many merchants have invested millions of dollars in website redesign, but even after multi-platform efforts to revamp and revitalize, they still struggle to stay at the front of the pack.

What can online businesses do to help ensure they stay competitive in 2015? Following are three strategies that will increase your site performance, grow your audience and ultimately drive results to your bottom line.

Prioritize Platform Speed

Despite continued innovation, online retail sites have become heavier and slower since 2012. According to a study from Radware Ltd., the median ecommerce page takes 10 seconds to load, compared with 6.8 seconds in 2012 — a 47% slowdown.

This increasingly sluggish performance comes at a time in which consumer patience is waning. In recent surveys by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. And 79% of shoppers who have trouble with a site’s performance say they won’t return again.

For those users who choose to wait, delays still translate into losses in conversion, page views and satisfaction. The Aberdeen Group reports that, on average, a 1-second delay in page load time causes a 7% loss in conversion, 11% fewer page views and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. Viewed in financial terms, a site earning $100,000 a day could lose $2.5 million in sales per year.

With its importance to both user experience and the bottom line, improving site performance offers an excellent opportunity to drive meaningful change in your business.

Embrace the Growing Mobile Audience

Improving site performance across the board remains a core objective for many merchants, but is especially important in the evolving world of mobile commerce. Page load speeds can have a significant impact on mobile user experience and conversion. Google guidelines suggest mobile page load times of one second or less to keep users engaged.

In 2012, ComScore forecasted that mobile website traffic would exceed desktop in 2014, a prediction that has now come to pass. New data from IBM reports that Black Friday mobile traffic reached nearly 50% of all online traffic, a 25% increase over 2013.

The surge in mobile traffic may not surprise many retailers. According to Shop.org’s 2014 Pre-Holiday Retailer and Consumer Study, the purchase journey now includes use of multiple devices, with users specifically using smartphones and tablets to:

  • Research products (42% smartphone, 53% tablet)
  • Look up store information (33% of those surveyed)

But mobile users extend beyond the top of the funnel — they’re also converting at a growing rate. IBM also reports that Black Friday mobile sales accounted for 27.9% of total online sales — up 28.2% versus last year and more than four times December 2011 levels.

With mobile traffic playing an increasingly vital role in driving sales for ecommerce stores, merchants who ignore the mobile experience do so at their own risk.

Commit to Improving Conversion

A stable, high-performance site and growing numbers of visitors — via desktop or mobile — means very little if merchants are unable to turn digital window shoppers into buyers.

But regardless of its importance, conversion optimization remains a neglected opportunity for many retailers. Average U.S. conversion rates have improved a meager 0.21% in the last 2 years, despite dramatic advances in technology. Improving conversion in a consumer landscape where shoppers are easily distracted, convenience-oriented, increasingly sophisticated in comparison shopping and inundated with options poses multiple challenges. Online businesses can’t control the technology or consumer habits, so they must adapt to them by doing everything they can to keep up in this rapidly evolving industry.

In all, speed and convenience are the two key metrics by which customer loyalty will be won. High conversion rates for brands will depend entirely on how well the optimize their sites for omnichannel use. Increase your site speed and ensure that your mobile and desktop experiences are both engaging and, ultimately, easy. Doing so will produce the 2015 ROI your business needs.

For more information and actionable steps to address your ecommerce site speed, mobile experience and conversion rates, download our free guide: 3 Proven Strategies to Drive Ecommerce Growth.

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