Consumers might be willing to stand in long dressing room lines or even queue overnight outside stores for a good sale, but research shows their tolerance for waiting is much, much lower online. A new survey from Brand Perfect shows that slow load time is the number one reason consumers are abandoning their e-commerce shopping carts, with 66% of UK respondents and 51% of US respondents saying that they leave the site when product images or pages take too long to load. So how long is too long? Surprisingly, the answer could be as low as 250 milliseconds — less than the blink of an eye — which Microsoft engineers have found is enough to cause users to visit a competitor’s website instead. Other research has shown that people expect web pages to load in two seconds or less and for e-commerce sites, even a one second delay can cause a 7% drop in conversions. During peak traffic hours, more than 75% of online consumers who experienced a slow loading page have left for a competitor’s website.

Consumers’ frustrations with slow speed isn’t just limited to page load times, but also how quickly they can find the products they want and purchase them. Brand Perfect’s study finds that users cite “difficulty of site use/navigation” (50% of UK and 41% of US respondents) and “too many steps to purchase” (40% of UK and 37% of US respondents) as the number two and number three reasons why they are abandoning their carts. A poor user experience on an e-commerce site is more likely to frustrate consumers than traditional challenges such as inability to try on a product for size or feel for its quality. Almost 60% of US and UK consumers say they wish online shopping sites were easier to navigate, and 52% wish the entire process could be done faster. Luckily, these are all usability issues that e-commerce businesses can — and will have to — address as the online marketplace becomes ever more competitive.

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