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How to build a quick-loading site

Eighty-three percent of shoppers expect an eCommerce site to load in three seconds or fewer. And yet, what do you think the median load time of an eCommerce homepage is? 10 seconds — more than 3x what shoppers will stick around for.

Chances are, the speed of your website is falling drastically below customer expectations, and it’s preventing sales. But, it also gives you an opportunity to improve them.

Research shows that a one-second improvement in page speed results in a 7% increase in conversions. In the words of Google Engineer Arvind Jain, “every millisecond matters,” and we’re here to show you how to build a quick-loading eCommerce website that keeps customers coming.

Why is a fast eCommerce site so important?

The eCommerce industry is obsessed with speed, whether that’s delivering orders in 2-days or fewer or having a website that loads in under one second.

While some sellers might brush the sub-second site off as a gimmick (what’s nine seconds between friends?), others experience significant benefits from a quick-loading site.

Engagement

40% of people will abandon a webpage if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Humans have a limited attention span, especially online where there are so many distractions. A quick-loading site sustains interest from the initial click and keeps the customer engaged as they land on your website.

Conversions

44% of shoppers will develop a negative perception of a company with a slow-loading site. Fast shipping sites suggest professionalism and investment in the customer experience, but that’s not all. Fast website speeds facilitate product discovery and seamless checkouts, making it easier for customers to convert.

Retention

79% of shoppers are less likely to buy from a site again if it’s slow. Website speeds impact the customer experience, which is one of the key determinants of whether a new customer becomes a repeat customer.

Recommendations

46% of customers will recommend an eCommerce brand with a fast site to family and friends. Speeds make a great first impression (whether that’s your site’s speed or deliveries) that people want to talk about.

SEO

Finally, page speed directly and indirectly impacts your ranking in Google’s search results and ad results. The quicker your site, the better your visibility, and the more conversions, which leads to better search rankings.

How to build a quick-loading eCommerce website

You’re an eCommerce seller, not a website developer. So, how do you build a quick-loading website and win that sub-second ranking?

You have three different options, each with its benefits and speed implications.

1. Optimize your existing Shopify or BigCommerce store

You can optimize your existing Shopify or BigCommerce store for speed using various tools, techniques, and third-party applications.

For example:

  • Reducing the number of third-party applications running on your site by disabling apps and features you don’t use.
  • Disabling theme features that pre-load information your customers aren’t using, such as quick view pop-ups.
  • Using a speed-enhancing app, such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) or a PWA (progressive web app) application.

The benefit of optimizing your existing store is that you don’t have to invest much money in bringing your loading speeds down. However, eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce weren’t designed with sub-second speeds in mind. Therefore, while these practices will certainly enhance your site speed, they won’t get it below one second.

2. Build bespoke headless architecture

Headless commerce is where the frontend of your online store is separate from the backend. This means the visual interface your customers interact with is decoupled from the functions that facilitate sales and fulfillment. An API (application programming interface) connects the two, allowing them to communicate.

The primary benefit of headless architecture is speed. The frontend isn’t dragged down by heavy backend functionality, and you have the freedom to use progressive web app technology on the front-facing part of your business to achieve those sub-second speeds.

You also use a team of developers to design a bespoke headless solution, combining different backend functions, third-party add-ons, and middleware with a PWA presentation layer – it’s completely customized to your store and customer needs and can scale accordingly. However, this is an expensive solution, which is why it’s usually only used by enterprise brands.

3. Use a headless commerce storefront

A headless commerce storefront, also known as a front-end PWA, allows you to optimize your website’s frontend for speed while maintaining Shopify and BigCommerce for the back-end functionalities.

It combines the best of the above – the affordability of an out-the-box eCommerce platform with a PWA presentation layer’s sub-second speeds.

You can also use pre-installed themes or a drag-and-drop designer to build your front layer, allowing you to avoid development fees and keep costs down. It’s the most affordable way to build a quick-loading site and is used by many different brands, as we’re about to show you.

Examples of headless commerce storefronts platforms

Shogun Frontend and Nomad

Shogun Frontend is a frontend PWA that allows Shopify and BigCommerce merchants to design and run their headless commerce storefront while using their eCommerce platform for logistics, finances, payment, etc.

A perfect example of Shogun Frontend in action is Nomad. Nomad is a consumer electronics and lifestyle retailer using Shopify. After building a sub-second PWA using Shogun Frontend, Nomad saw a 25% increase in conversions, a 15.6% decrease in bounce rate, and a 25% increase in revenue per session.

Nacelle and Barefoot Dreams

Nacelle is a headless commerce solution that pairs a headless storefront with an existing eCommerce tech stack to achieve fast loading speeds.

This is exactly what Barefoot Dreams experienced. Barefoot Dreams is a cozy loungewear and apparel brand. After using Nacelle to create a headless PWA using Shopify Plus, it decreased page load speeds from 15.8 seconds to 1.4 seconds while increasing conversion rates by 64% and doubling sales.

Moovweb and Shoe Carnival

Moovweb is an all-in-one platform for developing, deploying, previewing, and split testing a headless frontend while using platforms including Shopify or BigCommerce.

Shoe retailer Show Carnival used Moovweb to help with its slow and inflexible frontend. After implementing a headless solution, Shoe Carnival’s page loads went from 3.4 second first-page load and 6-second browsing transitions to 1 second and under for both. As a result, Show Carnival experienced a 35% increase in conversions, 40% rise in revenue, and it now outperforms 98% of the leading eCommerce websites in the search results.

Final thoughts on building a quick-loading website

Speed is of the essence when it comes to selling online, and it’s not just your shipping speeds.

A sub-second website attracts, engages, and converts customers, leaving a memorable impression that increases customer retention too. And, with a headless solution making it both possible and affordable, there’s no excuse for speed to stand in your way.

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