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Need for Speed: Accelerating International Ecommerce Sites

by Alexander Haislip | November 19, 2013 | Comments Off on Need for Speed: Accelerating International Ecommerce Sites

trade barriersTime is money and nowhere more so than in ecommerce. Site owners know this well, and study after study show that potential customers leave when you make them wait for pages to load.

Surveys show that 40% of people will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. It’s intuitive that really slow pages send customers elsewhere, but do faster pages improve sales? Absolutely. Amazon found that each 100-millisecond improvement in site speed translated to a 1% jump in revenue. That’s no small potatoes when you deal in billions of dollars of ecommerce each year. And these effects are magnified by the fact that Google measures site speed and includes it in its page-ranking algorithm. So if users get slow pages, Google will start sending them elsewhere.

Site performance is one of the key factors in making sales, yet one of the most difficult things to manage during international expansion. It involves carefully monitoring performance, investing in infrastructure, rethinking the content and managing additional layers of complexity. Any one of these things would be difficult to do by itself, but trying to do them all together and in an unfamiliar country makes for a serious challenge.


Monitor to Manage

The old axiom is that you can’t manage what you can’t monitor and that great performance starts with a good understanding of where you are and how you can improve.

Fortunately, there are quite a few tools available for monitoring site performance since plenty of people understand how important it is. One that works particularly well to test site speed internationally is Webpagetest.org, which lets you choose from test locations on every inhabited continent save Africa. You get a detailed report of every page element and how long it takes to load.

From there, you can begin to optimize. Test new configurations and see if speed improves.


Host Local

Picking a company to host your site isn’t easy, especially when you need access to new markets. There are two big things to look for when you need to make a decision: location and service.

Your hosting service need not be based in the foreign country you’re working to access, but it should have a datacenter nearby. Major hosting companies typically have several international locations where they can set up web servers. GoDaddy has datacenters in Singapore and Amsterdam, for example. Hosting your website closer to your customers reduces the time it takes for them to download the content on your ecommerce site. The data won’t have to travel halfway across the world if you can host it closer to your customers.

There are two major types of local hosting companies you can work with. The first is the small regional player that specializes in hosting. These can help you get a customized installation of your ecommerce site up and running and may be valuable to businesses that have specialized requirements. The other way to get local is to work with one of the local telecommunications providers. Mexico’s TelMex offers web hosting, for example. Though the telco giants may be less willing to offer custom configurations for ecommerce sites, it’s a safe bet that they’ll have good network interconnects that can ensure pages load quickly.

If you decide on a local hosting provider, be sure that you’re comfortable with the level of service you’ll be getting. Businesses that rely on website uptime and availability often need close partnerships with their hosting providers. When something goes wrong, you want to be sure that your hosting provider will pick up the telephone and help solve your issue.


Take Care with Content

It’s tempting to think more is more when it comes to web content. More pictures, more videos, more descriptions, more moving pieces to your ecommerce platform. Yet each additional element adds to the time it takes to transfer the files to your customers’ computers.

Content delivery networks (CDNs) are a popular way of handling large media files and ensuring that people can quickly download them from anywhere. A CDN, such as Akamai, Cloudflare, Level3 or EdgeCast Networks, operates web servers in dozens of locations around the world and can store static content and deliver it quickly. A CDN either operates its own datacenters around the world or piggybacks on infrastructure owned by major telecommunications providers. Either can provide a reliable way of delivering big files quickly.

CDNs can save ecommerce companies lots of money when compared to engaging multiple hosting companies, but that doesn’t mean their services come cheap. Pricing varies based on volume. Small ecommerce companies have reported paying as much as $0.40 per gigabyte delivered, while large companies can pay as little as $0.02 per gigabyte.

Though a CDN can accelerate site speed, it only helps with content. The actual site processing and logic still requires dedicated servers. It may be easier to simply reduce the number and size of media files your ecommerce site uses. This can also make your site more accessible via mobile phone.


Be Ready for Complexity

Building a global infrastructure for ecommerce is no simple task. It involves adding multiple new components to your IT operations and working with new service providers. Managing this additional complexity will come at a cost and may require operators with global ecommerce experience. But time is money, and if you’re going global, your business can’t afford to wait.


Pitney Bowes enables operational excellence in global ecommerce by eliminating “border friction”, and connecting you to the a global consumer base. If you’re a US retailer looking for more information on cross-border parcel shipping, subscribe to this blog for weekly updates, and contact us for more information. Want to learn more, download our brochure or watch a customer testimonial.

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