Performance vs Features in Retail eCommerce
By Neil Trickett, Managing Director, E2X
Go to this site. www.nomadgoods.com
Now go to your normal retail site. Go to Nordstrom (https://www.nordstrom.com/) and see how long a category takes to render. Heck even go to amazon.com.
Which one resonates with you?
There has been a site speed revolution in the last two years, and many have not got on the bandwagon. Site speed, especially, doubly, most importantly on mobile, is just a huge factor. Everyone knows the google change to rank search results on mobile site speed. Everyone has heard the stats on the patience of customers (i.e., they are not patient!). I don’t believe everyone has witnessed just how fast a site can be, and how it can be so quick with great content and more. It can be instant.
But let’s set the picture. For years ecommerce product companies have sold and differentiated based on features (it can handle these many products, it has this out-of-the-box, it can be personalized) and frankly many still do.
The stark reality is that most merchants use, say, 20% of the features of the products they have bought to form the foundation of their sites. Commercial reality sometimes dictates that there is no time to use more features, certainly the purchasers of these platforms frequently get deluded by some quirky feature that demos well (oh wow it takes weather feeds and we can predict our umbrella sales!) but in practice is more limited, and people making the ‘buy’ decision for software often do not factor in the operational ongoing cost of implementing a feature. The more things you implement, the more your platform costs to run! Surprise!
Beware of the feature merchants and take control of your customer experience. What you need is a modern approach rooted in fundamentals.
- Neil Trickett, Managing Director, E2X
And then, shoot, a competitor comes along. They don’t have all the features. They just have a simple and fast site, and all of a sudden the penny drops and you realize that quite frankly that is the sort of user experience you prefer yourself.
So what has changed? What is the secret of your competitor’s slick site? Well wind the clock back 20 years ago and to speed up sites we used to do something called statically generating them. Rather than one page that calls a database to get a Product, we would in the background pre-build 100 HTML pages to avoid a real-time database call. That went away after Broadband, cloud computing etc. But recently, via an architecture called the Jamstack, that 20 year old approach is back. It’s simple, it’s fast, and coupled with the latest and greatest cloud tech and CDNs—turns out it works. Triumph for the old folks.
The assumption was that this would not catch on, that this would only be useful for certain things, but coupled with the never-ending increase in mobile dominance, and throw in a pandemic increasing work from anywhere and fluid circumstances - and this simpler-but-faster approach has a real appeal. If you haven’t already, as much as AWS, Google and Azure you’ll start to hear of other companies (leveraging these leviathons) called Netlify and Vercel who have hit the right combination of tech to enable these fast but simple sites.
But what about the features? Turns out you don’t have to trade them all in. Even in this simple but fast approach you can do some pretty nifty things—including a/b testing and personalization, but it takes a different approach. Hey, you needed a new frontend anyway!
So my advice in this space is to beware the feature merchants and take control of your customer experience through a modern take on an old tech pattern that really works in 2022. Speed wins, and speed coupled with slick content is cost effective. If you don’t take this approach, your competition will!