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In a new report on e-commerce site performanceRetail Systems Research found that companies are adding more functionality to sites via third-party vendors — but they’re failing to understand how these technologies are impacting the consumer experience, as well as the site’s performance.

The top-performing sites included Adidas AG, The Men’s Wearhouse and Ulta Beauty. Retailers that scored poorly included Bass Pro Shops and DSW Inc., among others.

The research was sponsored by web optimization firm Yottaa, and evaluated the website of 80 major retailers. The researchers looked at shopper experience as well as page speed performance, and found that site performance, “especially on mobile, is ’embarrassingly slow’ as third-party technologies are impacting page load times,” RSR and Yottaa said in a statement. The study is a follow-up to a similar report conducted last year.

The shopper experience portion of the study included evaluating “the ease with which a shopper could find a product, and noted what ancillary tools (product reviews, recommendations, personalization, chat features, etc.) were provided to make the shopping journey more satisfying.”

Steve Rowen, managing partner at RSR, said as e-commerce continues to grow and is driven by robust consumer demand, retailers are struggling to keep up. Rowen said the findings of last year’s research showed that the “signs were already in place that retailers were barely keeping up in terms of web site performance — let alone staged to handle such a massive e-commerce increase.”

“The findings in this year’s report further validate that retailers need to find ways to improve site performance,” Rowen added.

For example, researchers at the firm said the average overall score of the retailers evaluated was 45 percent. RSR said the highest score in the testing this year was 63 percent. The highest score achievable is a 77. “These scores mean the needle is moving in the exact wrong direction and is the direct result of retailers adding third-party functionality (a good thing) to their sites, but without testing for the effect those features are having on performance (a bad thing, indeed),” authors of the reported said, adding that all the features and functions “in the world won’t matter if the shopper can’t access a site at a rate commensurate to his/her fast-paced lifestyle.”

The report noted that while many retailers “received high marks for beautiful, intuitive and shoppable mobile experiences, almost all retailers were penalized for very slow mobile performance.” RSR said the average grade on mobile performance was an anemic 37.

And regarding third-party features on sites, page load times are slowing down as a result of using it. “The average number of third-party requests for the retailers in the report was 139, representing a 50 percent growth over last year,” the authors of the report said. “In terms of actual third-party technologies implemented, most of the sites tested had between 30 to 40, with Chico’s leading the pack with 47 third parties on its site.”

Rich Stendardo, chief executive officer of Yottaa, said this year’s report highlights “both the importance of third-party technologies and the impact they have on performance. These technologies, such as personalization and live chat, provide great online experiences for shoppers. However, as retailers add more and more third parties, they also risk slowing down page load speeds, which causes shoppers to leave a site. This report demonstrates that retailers need to find a way to create both engaging and fast online experiences.”

RSR’s Top-Performing Retail E-Commerce Sites

Rank/Company/Total Score

1. Adidas AG 48

2. The Men’s Wearhouse Inc. 47

3. Ulta Beauty 46

3. 1-800-Contacts Inc. 46

3. Edible Arrangements 46

4. Blue Nile Inc. 45.5

5. VF Corp. (The North Face) 45

5. Sweetwater 45

5. Backcountry.com 45

6. CustomInk 44

6. Chewy Inc. 44

7. American Eagle Outfitters 43

7. Ascena Retail Group (Loft) 43

7. Sephora USA Inc. 43

7. MidwayUSA Inc. 43

8. Tire Rack Inc. 42

8. U.S. Auto Parts Network Inc. 42

9. Express Inc. 41.5

10. Shoebuy (Shoes.com) 41

Source: RSR

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