The Instagram logo

Are you mobilised?

How speedy experiences are shaping retail

Alessandra Alari is Head of Search and Digital User Experience at Google UK

James Ritty had a problem. After opening his first saloon in Ohio in 1871, the fine wine and whisky retailer had to deal with a recurring issue of his employees taking customers’ money and pocketing it – as opposed to depositing it in the businesses safe.

He therefore invented the ‘Incorruptible Cashier’, or the first working mechanical cash register. More than 140 years later the mechanical ‘ding’ made by Ritty’s cash register became synonymous with retail, cash and transactions around the world. This is one of the first ways that technology revolutionised shopping.

Much has changed since Ritty. The digital age has revolutionised retail far further than he could have predicted for consumers and brands alike, with the latest estimates predicting that global retail ecommerce sales will top $4.5 trillion by the year 2021.

But there are some rules of retail that ring as true now as they did a century ago. In particular, retailers need to consider exactly how customers are engaging with them and to remember the old adage that people remember service far longer than they remember price.

While Ritty’s cashier has been the medium that connected shoppers’ cash to retailers for over a century, increasingly the key mechanism that marks sales for retailers is the sleek supercomputer residing in our pockets.

The latest research from the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC) has found that “almost three quarters (72.6%) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7bn people.” Despite mobile Internet usage massively outpacing the use of desktops, the vast majority of webpages for mobile still offer a much weaker user experience, which is a huge factor in driving conversions. For brands and retailers, this is a missed opportunity.

The increase in mobile use has directly correlated with an increase in what people expect mobile experiences to deliver. Research from Google shows how people expect their experiences online, and particularly on mobile, to be faster and more seamless than ever before, with 65% of all UK adults using their smartphones as the primary device to go online.

But, although around 50% of Brits think sites should load in less than two seconds, the UK average load time is almost a massive nine seconds. This lag between consumer expectation and what is being delivered is costing retailers – 75% of people in the UK say that the speed it takes to load a page has the most impact on their overall experience. Perhaps most crucially, 50% of UK users will abandon mobile transactions because of a poor experience.

For ecommerce sites, abandonment due to slow load times can cost more than just one transaction – 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with site performance say they're less likely to purchase from the same site again. Retail is all about delivering great experiences and, on mobile, consumers want that experience to be fast.

For retailers wanting to check how they perform on mobile, Google’s Speed Scorecard ( allows businesses to measure how their mobile speed ranks against others from within their industry.

From saloons to smartphones, technology is constantly shaping the retail experience. For retailers wanting to hear the satisfying ‘ding’ of money in the till, it’s imperative to consider how your site is experienced on mobile. Here are three simple ways to speed up your mobile experience.

Unpack the essentials first – Prioritise above-the-fold content over anything else. That way, users consider your site fully loaded earlier on, and can start browsing faster. Having multiple files concerned with font, size, colour and spacing can have a big impact on site speed, so have these load later on.

Box things together – Each resource on your mobile site requires additional requests from the server, so try to group similar files together. Small images under 10KB can also be combined into a sprite format. Sprite formats allow a collection of images to be filed under a single image, reducing the amount of server requests and speeding up loading times.

Keep the boxes light – Large images take longer to load and slow things down. Compress your images to below 100KB wherever possible. GZIP is a free to use software that can also reduce the size of text-based files, like JavaScript, by as much as 70-80%.

Read more articles from our latest issue...