Two seconds might not seem like a very long time to you. But in the world of online shopping, two seconds can feel like an eternity. So crucial, in fact, are these two short seconds, that if you don't have your site loaded and your customer engaged, they'll head to the competition. And when shopping online, your competitors are just one click away.

Main street retailers used to have that old-fashioned advantage of being the only store in town that sold soft-soled sneakers, or a certain brand of peanut butter. Your customer would wait if the sign on the door said "back in 15 minutes," because they didn't really have much choice. Well, I probably don't need to tell you this, but it's not like that online. Loading delays and downtime are the best ways to miss out on holiday sales. You may be back in 15 minutes, but don't expect your customers to be.

SOASTA, market leader in performance analytics, released its 2016 Holiday Retail Insights Report last week. The results are impressive and conclusive and have a lot to do with seconds. What's the ideal load time for peak conversions? 2.4 seconds. What happens if your site loads slower than that? Probably a missed sale. A delay of just one second typically results in an 8 percent increase in bounce rate.

Get a Move On

If you're pretty confident in your customer loyalty, you'd still be wise to take this study into account. Think about your own shopping habits. How often have you opened up a new window while writing a report or receiving a phone call? If the site takes ages to splutter into life and your boss is about to walk in on you - you'll X right out of that site.

And you wouldn't be alone. 28 percent of customers don't return to a slow site, according to SOASTA, which means that if you still think two seconds are of little relevance, then translate that into a third of your customer base. When you look at it in terms of sales volume, suddenly this fraction of time becomes important.

During cyber week of 2015, the "sweet spot" for conversions was 2.4 seconds. With improvements in technology and diminished patience in consumers, 2016 is likely to be around 2 seconds. The data is conclusive. People don't like waiting for things. They simply don't have the time or the patience.

Even if you place your trust in the two thirds of customers who will sit and wait for a second or so longer, make sure you don't pass five. Pages that took more than five seconds to load saw their bounce rate leap up to 48 percent! Nearly half of your potential customers will jump ship if your site has a delay of five seconds or more. So, if you were thinking of cutting corners on your website speed, then I really, strongly advise that you don't.

Site speed is one of Google's important ranking factors, too. So, the faster your site loads, the higher your ranking. If you want to be seen by customers in the first place, beyond optimization, PPC and back links - make sure you get a move on.

Get Mobile

Unsurprisingly the data from this study showed that mobile traffic is now more important than ever before. In 2015, some 75% of Black Friday traffic came from mobile devices. What does this mean for e-tailors? That they need to ensure their sites load correctly and quickly across all types of mobile devices. That their apps are optimized for iOS and Android and that their shopping carts function flawlessly.

Avoid Downtime Like the Plague

Online retailers should avoid downtime at all costs. While the cost of downtime is hard to calculate, and varies according to industry and the moment it occurs, one thing's for sure - it's pretty expensive. If Amazon lost presence online for even 20 minutes, that outage would cost around $3.75 million in lost sales.

For Fortune 1000 companies, the average yearly cost of downtime is between $1.25 billion and $2.5 billion. Your company may not deal in the same volume as Amazon or a Fortune 1000, but the point is clear. Make sure your servers are up and running and functionality thoroughly tested.

Be Like Amazon

The winner of last year's cyber wars? Amazon, of course. Their holiday sales made up more than one third of all 2015 online holiday spending. How? Competitive pricing, free delivery, huge inventory and, according to SOASTA Director of Research, Tammy Everts, something extra. Like mastering the 2-second rule.

Amazon is an "extremely early adopter in the study of how seconds--and sometimes even milliseconds--of latency affect bounce rates, conversion rates, sales and revenue," she explains.

So, if you're in the midst of prepping your site for the holidays, make sure that you go beyond thinking about your offers and having your best products in stock. Everts believes that you can compete with Amazon. Not just by providing excellent service and products, but by getting the balance right between a fast and secure site, optimized for mobile and to prevent downtime. Master the 2-second rule and you'll master the holiday season sales.

Published on: Nov 21, 2016