This article was previously published on Stackify’s Blog.
You’ve delivered your product, application, or website. You’re seeing some traffic and even some conversions.
But something is holding you back. Could it be speed?
In today’s world of limited patience and shortened attention spans, you have to make sure that you’re giving your customers the enjoyable experience they need to stick around.
Why is the customer experience that important? It’s simple: Your performance could be affecting your balance sheet. It’s linked to revenue. And it’s what keeps your customers coming back or running for the hills.
OK, Tell Me How It’s Affecting the Bottom Line
There are several contributing factors that slow responses or load times—all of which can adversely affect your bottom line.
Some of these factors are easily identified while others can be a bit harder to quantify. Let’s look at some of them, both from a customer and an operational perspective.
Your customers are kings and queens. Or at least that is how they would like to be seen.
What is affecting them the most? What do you need to keep in mind while serving them digital experiences?
Abandoned Shopping Carts
This is now a classic scenario.
Imagine you’ve filled your shopping cart with several packages of brand-new golf balls. You’re almost ready to check out when you add a Tasmanian Devil ball marker to your cart. There’s a problem: it takes way too long to load. Rather than wait forever, you shut your laptop and head outside—instead of finalizing the transaction.
Everyone’s been in this situation at one point or another. We’ve all given up because shopping online, with its promise of speed and efficiency, just seems way too slow.
And yes, when we really think about it, a 10-second page load is still much faster than getting off the couch, putting on your “I will be seen in public” pants and driving to the store that may not even have what you want.
But it’s the 21st century. If I want the My Little Pony club covers, then I want them now!
The bottom line? Shopping carts should work incredibly quickly and smoothly. The clunkier your shopping cart is, the more abandoned transactions you’re likely to experience.
Existing Customers Leave
Sooner or later, most customers leave their preferred vendor for someone new. They want better, faster, shinier things. And, after a while, our old favorite isn’t willing to give us the attention and perks that we’re used to getting.
But why? Why do we buy new phones? Is it really that much more advanced than the one in our pocket? Or is it because our old standby has become so incredibly slow that we can’t stand it?
According to countless studies, keeping a customer is less expensive than finding a new one.
So respect your existing base and give them the speed and ease that they deserve. Otherwise, they may leave. And—depending on what they say to their friends—they may also take away potential new customers, too.
Potential Customers Don’t Take the Plunge
You lost customers from their experiences above. They are done with you. And they’re not quiet about it. They know the faults of your brand and have conveniently forgotten all the benefits of why they came to you in the first place. They’ve left bad reviews and even told their friends about their lackluster experiences. Occasionally, they even fudge the truth about their favorite new vendor that is so much better than you ever were. It makes them look smart.
Who sees and hears all this? Who reads the bad press? Your potential customers, who are now unlikely to give you the time of day.
And, even if you do happen to still get new customers that want to give you a chance, they could be turned away by their first impressions of your application.
Remember, today’s customers are looking for easy, speedy and stylishly cool. They don’t care about your oft-forgotten features that most people don’t even use.
Or They Can’t Even Find You in the First Place…
When your website is slow, SEO suffers—which means potential customers might not even find you to begin with.
Google and other search engines improve their customers’ experiences by providing search results that are not only relevant but load quickly and are easy to use.
If their little search bots (I like to call them convenience crawlers) notice you’re not quite as fast as your competitor, your ranking will drop.
What other factors could slow your application or site? Are there things that don’t affect the customer but still affect your company?
Well, yes. Of course there are.
Increased Support Costs
Your site is slow and it’s annoying your customers. How does that affect you?
Whether you’re a large company with departments that “deal with that sort of thing” or a one-man army of problem-solving, you will be hit by support costs—both time and money—when your application is slow.
When most customers experience slow response times, they go elsewhere.
But what about those who stay? What are these loyal fans going to give you?
Support requests. Open tickets. Endless emails. Engaging your live chat because they have had yet another day of low productivity using your app and they want you to know about it.
And don’t forget about abandoned chats and tickets, either. They’re a sign that says your customer has just given up.
Loss of Recruitment Prospects
Let’s say you’re an awesome software developer or a customer success rep sent from the gods.
Where do you want to work? Do you want to work at the company that has a lot of support requests and bad press about speed and performance? Or do you want to work where they’re doing the right thing—the place where you can learn from and be happy about creating real value for your customers?
OK, I made that question pretty biased. But really, how many key employees have you seen leave for bigger and better things because a company can’t get its act together? For me, it’s definitely more than one.
How Do I Know If I’m Affected?
By now, you’ve discovered some things that perhaps you haven’t considered. Now you want to know if slow performance is actually affecting you.
How do you figure it out? In short, the answer is metrics.
What Kind of Metrics?
It’s now clear that you want to gather stats on what your app is doing what you can do to improve it. So what do you gather? And how do you know you’re at least tracking the most important metrics? You may need some best practices to guide you.
Consider the following example: Let’s say your average response time is four seconds, but during peak times (i.e., when most of your customers are actually using your product) it jumps to 10–12 seconds. You may think that four seconds is great—or at least good enough.
But what are your customers really feeling?
Many of them are experiencing that 10–12 second load time, and you’re about to drive them to your competition.
They key is to correlate metrics like customer satisfaction to the speed and performance of your application. Yes, we all know that correlation doesn’t always mean causation. But it’s a good place to start looking.
Are there times when your support load or abandoned baskets increase? Is there a something that could be driving your revenue down? Make sure to look at your performance.
Speaking of revenue, take a look at how it measures against load time. Is there another correlation there? Do changes in load time track with changes in the money coming in?
It could also be that certain types of transactions or products are more of a bottleneck than others. It’s the misleading average that may lead you the wrong way. Can you correlate certain transactions or requests with their load to revenue metrics?
All of these ideas share a common theme: You want to be able to correlate IT metrics with your business metrics. Track things like revenue, conversion and customer reviews to your application performance metrics. Try to tweak the numbers and see how it affects your bottom line.
Now you’ve learned areas where you can improve your own performance. But, hopefully, you’ve also learned ways you can take advantage of your slower competitors by being faster and more responsive.
The next step is to start measuring. Gather metrics. Find where you’re strong and where you’re weak. Increase what matters most to your customers by using metrics from not only your customer’s perspective but from your operations side, too.
Find the metrics that make sense for what you’re trying to accomplish. And always beware that averages may be misleading.
With data on hand, you can take proactive steps to improve your loading times and accelerate app performance, generating stronger customer experiences—and more revenue—along the way. What’s not to like?