Website Load Time Matters More Than You Think

By: Steve Lausch, Director of Product Marketing

What makes a strong auto dealership website? Certainly, an easy pathway for shoppers to view vehicle inventory sits near the top of the list. Strong calls to action are important, as well as clearly communicating the unique value of your brand- your “Why Buy Here?” statement. And who can argue with the need for eye-catching design?

Unfortunately, one basic dealership website element gets neglected. It is perhaps equally, or more important, than any of the qualities listed above: speed.

The Need for Speed

We all know how much the digital age has fostered an “I need it now” mentality across our culture. We expect fast service, fast answers, and fast websites.

73% of website visitors note speed as the leading attribute in website performance (eMarketer). This SOASTA/Harris Poll study stated that website load times ranked higher than reliability, responsiveness, and site layout. The fact that most dealership websites take longer to load than they should to load leaves auto dealers with a real opportunity in front of them.

40% of online visitors will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.

40% of online visitors will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from that business. A one second delay in page response results in 7% fewer website leads (Kissmetrics). Your dealership’s business is impacted when the site is too slow.

Learn about the fastest websites in the industry – Dominion Responsive Websites.

So what is an acceptable load time? In August 2013, a publication from the Center for Media Research indicated that 60% of website visitors aren’t willing to wait more than five seconds for a webpage to load before they leave the site. This was published over three years ago. Here’s how things have changed.

Where “Faster” Pays Off

Charting the activity of roughly one million sessions in 2014 and again in 2015, SOASTA identified a few trends in shopper behavior (MarketingSherpa).

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First, average load times per session have shed a full second over the course of one year. In 2014 (top), the peak of the graph indicates a 3.8 to 4.0 second load time. In 2015 (bottom), this peak shifted to a 2.8 to 3.2 second range. Increased online consumer shopping behavior is driving the need for faster websites.

Second, peak conversions in 2014 occurred alongside a 3.6 second load time while those in 2015 maxed at 2.4 seconds. This means that online car shoppers are responding more positively to faster websites. The faster the site, the more leads one might anticipate from that site.

Third, consider the shape of the two graphs. The broader curve in 2014 evolves toward a more narrow curve in 2015. This tells us that the rate at which conversions trail off (as website load time increases) is becoming more and more sharp over time. Online automotive shoppers will reward speed with conversions — or punish dealers that lack it.

What Dealers Need to Ask

Regardless of the vendor or OEM program providing the auto dealership’s website, the data suggests that dealers need to begin looking more critically at website load times. Does the site load between two and three seconds? If not, what is that vendor willing to do to get load times down to what car shoppers expect?

Is the vendor using compression and deflation techniques on the hosting servers? Are they optimizing images? Loading critical content first to drive the user experience? Employing caching to avoid dynamically displaying your pages each time they are called up? Are your Javascripts and stylesheets set up to promote faster load times?

Perhaps the answer is “no.”

In 2014, Dominion responsive websites were named the fastest loading sites in the auto industry (PCG Consulting). Two years later, that load time now sits at 2 seconds. It demonstrates our ongoing commitment to engineer dealer websites that are not just built for elegance, engagement, and lead conversion, but for meeting a shopper’s need for speed.

If your site is not performing the way your shoppers are expecting it to, give us a call. We’d be happy to help boost load times, conversions, and overall business done through your online presence. Call 877.421.1040.

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