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Is Argos ready for Christmas?

According to recent news articles, such the Guardian’s “UK retailers ready for record online sales this Christmas”, or ComputerWeekly’s “Online retail spend reaches record high as Christmas approaches”, UK retailers are expecting record sales through their online channels this year.

Both of these articles quote figures from IMRG and Cap Gemini, who estimate that online retail revenues will be significantly higher than last year and could break through the £10bn barrier for the month of December.

As performance test specialists, Trust IV take a keen interest in the performance of retail and other websites.  Our in-house monitoring solution allows us to measure the response times for different web sites; and compare, for example, one retailer with another.  In the last week we’ve noticed significant variability in page response times for Argos, a major UK retailer.  Our observations suggest that all is not well with their website.  This could leave them unable to capitalise on the boom in Christmas spending anticipated by the British Retail Consortium.

The chart above shows the response times for the Argos home page for the afternoon of the 6th November 2013.  This shows a significant slowdown at 13:27 as well as extremely poor performance between 19:00 and 22:00.  The small red diamonds on the chart show times when our monitoring tool received the error message below, rather than the normal home page when the site was visited.

Poor response times, together with error pages such as that shown above do not add up to happy customers. Jakob Nielsen’s report, “Website Response Times” from 2010 describes how users are less engaged with computer applications whose response times are slower than three seconds.  Increases in page response times allow users minds to wander, reduces their likelihood of making a purchase and results in a reduction in revenue for the site owner.

Argos still has time to rectify these problems, but it needs to move quickly before the UK’s “Cyber Monday” when customer volumes are likely to reach their peak if it is to profit from the UK’s record Christmas spend.

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