Poor performance 'cost e-tailers £300m' over Christmas

Downtime and slow downloads cost UK e-tailers valuable business over the festive period, says a monitoring company

Internet retailers missed out on an estimated £300m of trade over the Christmas period because their Web sites had fallen over or were taking too long to load, according to recent research.

Site Confidence, a UK Web monitoring company, analysed 35 shopping Web sites throughout December, which is traditionally the busiest period for both online and offline retailers, and estimates that UK e-retailers could have generated 10 percent more revenue had their Web sites been functioning correctly.

Bill Kirkwood, chief executive of Site Confidence, said that although UK businesses value the Internet as a sales channel, many have not yet addressed the problem of downtime: "A Web site that is down is akin to a high-street shop with closed doors -- no business should miss out on revenues just because of performance issues," he said, pointing out that in November, IMRG predicted online revenues over Christmas would reach £3.3bn.

Site Confidence, which continuously tested links, download speeds, image presence and total uptime during December, said potential shoppers faced "severe problems" 10 percent of the time and discovered that the worst offenders were gadget sites, such as gadgetshop.com and iwantoneofthose.com. Both sites were highlighted because up to a third of visitors would have experienced slow download times or found the sites weren't responding.

It took up to a minute to download a page from the Gadget Shop's Web site while the best performer was the WHSmith site, which took around 12 seconds. Kirkwood said the average time for downloading a Web page across all 35 sites was 25 seconds.

Web infrastructure performance specialists Empirix carried out a similar study in December and found the results to be almost identical. The company monitored the Web sites of 10 of the UK's biggest and best retailers, and found many were failing to take all the hassle out of Christmas shopping. According to Empirix, Sainsbury's Web site took 25 seconds to access at peak times while lingerie site Figleaves.com kept shoppers waiting 22.5 seconds. Carphone Warehouse weighed in with a time-consuming 24.7 seconds, while lastminute.com was similarly struggling at times with waits of almost 20 seconds.

Silicon.com's Will Sturgeon contributed to this report