Guest Column | October 20, 2022

5 Strategies For Retailers To Optimize Online Stores And Increase Conversions

By Jacob Loveless, Edgemesh

Five 5

In the past five years, online retail has experienced explosive growth. The current economic climate and other factors, including tightening credit, low inventory levels, and an increase in advertising costs, are among just some of the challenges brands face as we close out 2022. These issues will continue to plague retail business well into 2023.

To power through and thrive, not just survive, the top-line priorities for brands should be efficiency, optimizing online engagement, and of course, increasing conversions. Five proven strategies will help brands prepare for the busiest selling season of the year and provide a baseline for priorities in 2023.

1. Optimize All Image Sizes

We know it and so do you—consumers don’t like to wait. A load speed that exceeds just three seconds increases the probability of a bounce by 32%. That number can impact your bottom line significantly. So, what can brands do now to help speed up their websites and improve the customers’ experience?

Optimizing your image sizes is a start. Quality images create a pleasing aesthetic, but they, unfortunately, come at the cost of slowing down websites. The bigger they are, the more they slow it down. Removing them entirely isn’t an option, especially if you run an e-commerce store where quality images establish trust with online shoppers. It’s important to optimize the image sizes for responsiveness—without losing quality. Two ways to do this include:

  • Reducing image size by employing compression tools

Compression tools compress high-quality images up to 81% of their original size—without compromising quality. Just upload the images and the tool will compress them in the best way possible.

  • Uploading images in WebP format

WebP images offer a modern approach to optimizing images and making them more responsive than other methods. According to Google, WebP images offer superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web, making websites run faster.

2. Minimize Time To First Byte (TTFB)

Time to First Byte (TTFB) is the time (in milliseconds) it takes the browser to receive the first byte of information from the server. What helps with TTFB is to evaluate the time it takes your website to respond to a user's request. A TTFB under 200ms is ideal for a good user experience, 300-500ms, you’re still doing well but with just a few tweaks you can get closer to 200ms. If the TTFB is around 600ms, it’s time to check your server.

3. Reduce The Number Of Plugins

What we like about plugins is that they provide multiple functionalities to website frontends and backends as well. What we don’t like about them is that there’s a limit to how many you can effectively use.

Websites require processing power from the server to run. The more installed plugins, the more processing power is required. When plugins start competing for that same processing power, the website begins to slow down. This will impact server response times, page load times, and overall user experience. We recommend only installing plugins that are vital to running your website.

4. Fix Multiple Redirects And Broken Links

Excess redirects lead to additional HTTP requests that block the main thread from responding to the user's request. The result is that the main thread cannot execute new requests until the existing task is completed. Every redirect is an HTTP request to the server and more redirects lead to more requests that slow down website pages. The same goes for broken links which can lead to a redirect loop, causing search engines not to index your website.

You can address this problem by identifying website redirects and broken links using Screaming Frog. It’s best to limit redirects to a maximum of two requests and remove the broken links altogether.

5. Use Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

One common reason for poor website performance is the distance between a server and the user’s location. Fortunately, content delivery networks (CDNs) provide services that help you deliver your website faster to users around the globe. CDNs comprise a geographically distributed network of servers that work together to provide faster delivery of internet content. The CDN caches a copy of your website on several servers worldwide to quickly serve up a copy of it from a server closer to the user. This process eliminates latency because it doesn’t require sending a request to the origin server. We recommend Cloudflare CDN to get started.

From optimizing images to minimizing your Time to First Byte, multiple strategies will improve the performance of online stores—and sales. With these tips, guidance, and actionable insights, brands will be ready to optimize their websites and the customer experience and ready to increase conversions —just in time for the busy holiday season ahead.

About The Author

Jake Loveless has had a twenty-year career in making technology go faster. From low-latency trading systems on Wall Street to large-scale web platforms for the Department of Defense to microwave networks for telecommunication companies - Mr. Loveless has helped propel software to new speed limits. He is a two-time winner of High-performance Computing awards and a frequent contributor to the Association of Computing Machinery. Today, Mr. Loveless runs Edgemesh, the global web acceleration company he cofounded with two partners in 2016. Edgemesh helps eCommerce companies across multiple industries and platforms deliver 20-50% faster page loads to billions of users around the globe.