With the recent crazy long weekend of shopping deals to be had both online and in store it has been a testing time for some of the UK’s Top 50 retailers.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday came to the UK in 2010 with Amazon offering Black Friday discounts. Every year since has seen more and more retailers joining in to get a piece of the action, and this year was no exception. Combined with the media hyping up the event just as it does in the US, chaos ensued in stores across the country.

But for those looking to avoid the chaos at the stores, many encountered a different kind happening online. Retailers such as Argos, Boots, BHS, Littlewoods, Pets @ Home, and River Island struggled to cope with the online demand.

River Island saw its homepage grow from an already huge 1.8 MB in size to over 3.8 MB, only to reduce it back down to 1.8 MB by December 1. Serving up a page of this size during the biggest online shopping event of the year could only lead to one thing…

River Island performance

Every one of those red dots represents a timeout, which means that the site was either completely unavailable or took longer than 30 seconds to load, by which time consumers had likely moved on to another site.

River Island availability

Meanwhile, BHS had extended periods throughout the day where the site was experiencing outages.

BHS performance

 

To their credit, BHS acknowledged the problems on their social media accounts as they struggled to resolve the issues, and announced that they were extending their Black Friday deals both online and in-store through December 3 as a way to placate their customers.

Data heavy pages during these online sales are a common occurrence, as everyone tries to grab the attention of their users with high-res images and banner ads touting all of the deals that they’re offering. But during these busy periods, sites should really be focusing on delivering the best possible online experience for their customers.

Throughout the testing period (96 hours from 11/28 thru 12/1), the average page size across the 50 UK sites that we tested was 1.81 MB, with an average of 107 objects per page. DFS takes home the dubious honor of the most objects with a 313, while JD Sports had the largest page weight with a whopping 4.96 MB!

It wasn’t all bad news though, as Tesco showed that they are committed to performance by delivering both the lightest page (293 KB) and the one with the fewest objects (12). Other notably strong performers were Aldi (743 KB, 28 objects), Morrison’s (982 KB, 34 objects), and Iceland (795 KB, 57 objects). Not surprisingly, all four retailers turned in better-than-average webpage response and document complete times as well.

So instead of reducing prices by 50%, maybe some of the poorer performers should be looking to reduce page weight by 50%, or page objects by 50%.

After all, what good is a sale if people can’t navigate the site properly to complete a transaction? The amount of lost revenue for some retailers over this short period will be significant.

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