We are all different - so are the reasons for starting a web shop. Common to us all, is that we hope it will make us a buck. - Depending on the platform you have chosen, this might be harder than you think.
As you will see, the most popular eCommerce platform is also least likely to make your dreams come true.
The eCommerce platform market is dominated by very few large players
With $2.3 trillion in B2C*, and $7.7 trillion in B2B* sales, and with numbers just going up. eCommerce has become the established way to do trade. As more and more businesses establish an eCommerce presence - what was once good, is no longer enough! To be relevant and keep your market share you need to up your game.
* 2017 Numbers
The 2019 eCommerce platform Top 10 - by popularity
- WooCommerce (2,000,001 shops live)
- Shopify ( 706,112 shops live )
- OpenCart ( 382,163 shops live )
- SquareSpace ( 347,839 shops live )
- ZenCart ( 278,570 shops live )
- PrestaShop (270,672 shops live )
- Magento ( 225,868 shops live )
- Wix ( 217,453 shops live )
- OsCommerce ( 102,965 shops live )
- BigCommerce ( 49,484 shops live )
** Numbers from BuiltWith February 11. 2019
PLEASE NOTE: The list is skewed towards North American and European made platforms, with Wix as the odd one out. - This is about to change. With eCommerce sales growing by several 100% a year in Asia, expect the Top 10 to change very soon.
While all will host a functional and beautiful shop, some if not all come with serious downsides. Downsides, that affect the cost of doing business as well as your ability to get new customers and keep the ones you already have.
With customer expectations going up, the average web page has doubled in size over the last 5 years. Connection speeds, on the other hand have not followed. This has lead to steep rise in page load times. Right now the average time for a page to load on mobile is 15 seconds. When you know that 88% of visitors leave a page if they’re forced to wait longer than 4 seconds. You see the problem!
If you can afford it, you can choose to offset the problem by advertising more. But since both Google and Facebook qualify your landing pages as part of the way they prize ads. Expect to pay through the nose! - Or in Google and Facebook terms, pay them enough to want to give their users a bad experience.
Or you can choose to tackle the real problem.
What we know
The underlying problem is page size - and the fact that it has doubled over the last 5 years. We also know that page size has doubled because customer expectations have gone up. So we need to take that into account when looking for solutions.
We know that page load times have to come down! Ideally down to 2 seconds or lower. Leaving them as is, is not financially viable - for any size business in any kind of industry.
-Depending on how bad your shop is doing, this is no small feat.
But how bad is it - really?
As you can see from the table below everyone is doing bad! Even the best performing shops are more than 384% slower than we need it to be. WooCommerce - the worlds most popular eCommerce platforms - is 526% slower than we need it to be!
The 2019 eCommerce platform Top 10 - by average page speed
- OpenCart ( 7.71 seconds )
- ZenCart ( 8.5 seconds )
- OsCommerce ( 9.65 seconds )
- Wix ( 10,22 seconds )
- PrestaShop ( 10.35 seconds )
- BigCommerce ( 10.51 seconds )
- WooCommerce (10,7 seconds)
- Shopify ( 11.35 seconds )
- SquareSpace ( 11.69 seconds )
- Magento ( 13.68 seconds )
** Market research February 12, 2019
Why is it so bad?
Slow page speeds is the symptom of an infection caused by 6 factors. To stop it and inoculate against it, you will have to deal with all 6:
- The quality of your web hosting environment. This is called Time to First Byte (TTFB). You want the time to be 600ms or lower ***.
- The number of resources required to build the web page. This is normally counted in number of requests. You want the number to be 100 or less.
- The complexity of the design you have chosen for the web page. Web design has come a long way in the last 5 years. It has also become more complex - sometimes too complex. Simpler is better. Complexity is measured in number of DOM Nodes. You want the number to be below 3000 ***.
- The time it takes to calculate the layout of the web page. This is often a function of complexity as mentioned in 3. Again simpler is better. - Solutions can be convoluted and slow or simple and fast. But a complex design done right can be faster than a simple design done wrong. This is measured in seconds, and you want it to be 2 seconds or lower ***.
- The time it takes to set up the functionality of the web page. Given the functional requirements of a modern shop, this is complex. - Again complex functionality done right, can be faster than simple functionality done wrong. This is measured in seconds, and you want it be 2 seconds or lower ***.
- The combined size of the resources needed to build the web page. The fewer and smaller resources you need to set up the web page the better. This is measured in kilo bytes, and you want the number to be 1600 kilo bytes or lower ***.
*** Google recommendations.
Depending on the capabilities of the device trying to show the page; - points 3, 4 and 5 are done in tandem. In most cases this is a good thing, but if one process depends on the other this can lead to massive increases in page load speeds.
All 6 factors pool in to give you the actual page speed. To deal with the issues you don’t have to be tech wiz.
Here is what you can do to make your shop faster:
The Pagoda trick
The quality of your web host does not rely on anything you do, or have done. It is the time it takes for a users click to reach your shop, to the shop actually starting to download to the users browser. Performance here, is 98% hardware and only 2% software. And it makes no difference how your web page looks or performs. The faster the time, the more money the web hosting company has invested in hardware and the physical connection to the internet. You want to choose the fastest, which often also is more expensive.
As you can see from the table below, Shopify and SquareSpace fight for the top spot. Whereas WooCommerce shops in general are doing a poor job of it.
The 2019 eCommerce platform Top 10 - by average Time To First Byte (TTFB)
- Shopify ( 0.71 seconds )
- SquareSpace ( 0.72 seconds )
- Wix ( 0.89 seconds )
- PrestaShop ( 0.91 seconds )
- OpenCart ( 0.93 seconds )
- Magento ( 0.94 seconds )
- WooCommerce ( 0.94 seconds )
- BigCommerce ( 1.01 seconds )
- OsCommerce ( 1.15 seconds )
- ZenCart ( 1.45 seconds )
** Market research February 12, 2019
Classic car restorers Pagoda from Hungary has applied this trick to perfection. Instead of moving to Shopify or SquareSpace, they have chosen to stay with WooCommerce. But they have moved their shop to a professional WooCommerce host instead of the economy host they used before. This has done wonders for their performance, and it can for you too. -If you choose a professional WooCommerce host like Nexcess.
Pagoda right now has a page load time of 5.4 seconds and a Time To First Byte of 0.72 seconds. This is performance comparable to Shopify and Squarespace.
* WooCommerce isn't the only platform that will benefit from a move like that. PrestaShop, OpenCart, Magento, OsCommerce and ZenCart will all benefit. BigCommerce and Wix shops are not so lucky. Here is the link professional web hosting firm Nexcess who has specialized solutions for WooCommerce, Magento and Wordpress.
The "Sharpen the Message" trick
Pagoda along with a lot of other shops have used this trick to focus exclusively on their core message. This has improved their page speed, improved conversion rates and increased sales.
The point is to limit the overall size of the resources necessary to build the page to 1600 KB. Unless you own a super market, most shops will benefit from a focus on the core product or core service.
As you can see from the table below, your competitors have already started the journey.
The 2019 eCommerce platform Top 10 by average page size
- OpenCart ( 1.8 MB )
- OsCommerce ( 2.4 MB )
- PrestaShop ( 2.7 MB )
- BigCommerce ( 2.7 MB )
- Wix ( 3.0 MB )
- Shopify ( 3.8 MB )
- Magento ( 4.0 MB )
- ZenCart ( 4.3 MB )
- WooCommerce ( 4.5 MB )
- SquareSpace ( 7.2 MB )
** Market research February 12, 2019
Pagoda from Hungary has managed go from an overall page size of 12078 KB to 1621 KB. In saving an impressive 10457 KB, they have also managed to create a more modern and better looking web shop. Have a look:
The “Power of 4” trick
Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Wix and WooCommerce shops, all have well stocked App Stores at their disposal. But what from the outside looks like a “good thing” may not be.
Forever chasing the next big thing shop owners look for easy fixes to what right now is perceived as “problems”. -App stores provide an easy and cheap way to scratch an itch.
eCommerce platforms like SquareSpace, try to supply all necessary functionality in the core. In that way the platform remains pristine and fast. Whereas all the others become overweight and slow because of 3rd party apps and plugins. As with "Sharpen the Message" it pays off to focus on what is really important, and drop all that isn't.
It is inherently difficult to test the effect a plugin has on your shops performance. You have to take a different approach. You need to limit the number of plugins to 4! Delete the rest and you will see that it will benefit your page speed as well as boost your sales.
Is there any hope?
Other page speed guides – including Googles – focus almost exclusively on the tech stuff – which in most cases are symptoms of a greater illness, instead of the actual cause.
- They focus on image compression, but if your problem is that you load too many images, compression doesn’t matter in the big picture.
- They tell you to cache stuff, without telling you that caching has no effect on the first visit, but only with 2nd, 3rd and 4th visits. So if visitors have been scared off by long waits the first time they tried – they will never come back and your cache does not make any difference whatsoever.
- They also tell you to use CDN’s, what they don’t tell you is that a CDN is only effective if you use it for your whole site. In all other cases it comes with a speed penalty.
And so on and so forth. Off course there are improvements that can be done, but if you don’t address the root causes, your shop will always be slow. If you make an effort to apply the 3 “tricks” described above, you will outperform your competition and sell more!
Isn’t that what we all want?