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Marks and Spencer blames website for poor sales

I read this morning that Marks and Spencer's Chief Executive, Marc Bolland is blaming a 8.1% fall in online trading on the company's new website. The BBC article that I read, described teething troubles with the website and said that existing customers were required to re-register on the new site and that there had been problems with site navigation.

At Trust IV we've been monitoring the performance of a large number of retail websites over the last 12 months and it's interesting to note that the M&S site homepage is significantly slower than many of its competitors. In this morning's league table, M&S is the 239th site in a league of 284 retail websites with a page response time of 4.8 seconds, measured from our data centre in Manchester. When first impressions count, a slow landing page isn't good for business.

Looking at the 12-month stats for M&S it's clear to see that there are three distinct groups of page response times.

  • In Summer 2013 the response times hovered around the 4 second mark before falling to a more acceptable 2 seconds in October. 
  • After a slight slow down towards Christmas (potentially related to increased load at this time of year), response times stabilised at slightly higher than 2 seconds.
  • In February this year, things took a turn for the worse and response times have been increasing since then with an upwards trend towards 5 seconds.

As well as our in-house test tool, we host a public WebPageTest instance in the same data centre. This morning's WebPageTest report highlights some of the reasons for the poor performance, including a large number of components on the landing page and numerous third-party links with content delivered from over 40 different domains.

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