Gomez Rates Holiday Web Site Performance

Retail sites like Nordstrom.com, buy.com and macys.com are the fastest in their categories in processing holiday transactions, while Fredericks.com, Circuitcity.com and Sears.com are slowest, according to an online shopping performance index by Gomez Inc. covering Dec. 2-8.

Nordstrom.com in the apparel category took 7.5 seconds to access its page, search for a common product, place the item in the shopping cart and proceed through checkout just prior to entering product information. The site was available to process the transaction 99.91 percent of the times Gomez tried to do so.

Similarly, buy.com had a transactional response time of 7.7 seconds and 99.32 percent availability in the music, electronics and books category. Macys.com clocked in at 8.5 seconds in the mass merchants and toys category, with 96.24 percent availability.

By contrast, Fredericks.com had a 28.7 second transactional response time and 97.51 percent availability among the tracked retail sites, and circuitcity.com 32.3 seconds in music, electronics and books and 93.94 percent availability. Gomez's gripe was with circuitcity.com's search functionality. Searching on movie titles like “Spider-Man” yielded slow results while DVDs and other electronics returned speedy results.

Data for Walmart.com in the mass merchants and toys category is still being analyzed, but Sears.com had a transactional response time of 21 seconds and 94.59 percent availability.

These times do not include time needed to select products or enter information, but reflect the fastest possible scenario for an online shopping experience.

Gomez measured from seven nodes nationwide that access the Internet at T1 speeds, or 1.5MB per second, much faster than what an average dial-up user would experience.

“A lot of these sites are having slowdowns during peak traffic times,” Gomez performance specialist Dawn Parzych said of the laggards. “So if you look at it from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, you see sometimes double the response than during the 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. time period.

“So there are sites under a large amount of load and stress, people trying to go get last-minute shopping, do some research on different products,” she said. “So people at work are going to use the Internet because they might have better connections there than at home. So you're seeing a lot of these sites aren't able to handle that increased traffic during those hours.”

Sears.com, for example, experienced a decline in successful customer interactions at the onset of the post-Thanksgiving period. Transactions on sears.com were completed 87 percent of the time during a Gomez testing period before Thanksgiving, while the success rate plunged to 80 percent in the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 weekend.

Gomez research shows that the top holiday online retailer home pages averaged 2.36 seconds to load across a high-speed Internet connection since the first shopping day after Thanksgiving.

Victoriassecret.com's home page averaged 0.93 seconds to pull up, nike.com 1.11 seconds and gap.com 1.27 seconds since the Friday after Thanksgiving. At the low end, Spiegel.com took 4.15 seconds to load and crutchfield.com 4.19 seconds.

But to its credit, Spiegel.com was the only site measured by Gomez to have a 100 percent transaction success rate in the pre- and post-Thanksgiving periods and the first week after Thanksgiving.

“Popular sites like Amazon and eBay fall on either side of the benchmark average, forcing high-speed shoppers to wait over two seconds, which equates to significantly longer wait times for dial-up users,” said John Lovett, senior performance analyst at Gomez.

Other days for online retailers to circle on the calendar are Dec. 19-20.

“Only because particularly if you want to make sure those gifts get under the tree in time and you're talking about the delivery, the courier services not wanting to be at risk for not delivering something on time,” said Alan Alper, senior analyst at Gomez.

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