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Demystifying site speed for Shopify store owners

Written by
Luke Green
January 28, 2021

Let's face it, slow sites are frustrating to use. Customers now simply expect a fast and frictionless online experience, but what exactly is ‘slow’ and how do you address it within your Shopify Store?

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If there is one friction your site cannot escape, it’s the impact of your page load speeds. In fact almost everything that the customer experiences “on-page” is impacted by the metric of speed. 

Speed really,
really matters.

Even if your site looks awesome and you have the hottest products in town, a slow site is like having your foot on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. Not only is that going to ruin your car but it also negatively impacts conversion and ultimately your bottom line over time.

This of course, is borne out by the data. Slow sites have a whole heap of other things working against them. Higher bounce rates, lower ranks in search engines, lower conversion rates and lower customer retention. All, I’m sure you will agree, great reasons to make sure you stay on top of your site speed. 

So how fast?

So then, speed is important but how fast is fast and what by definition is too slow?

For the average store owner trying to get a handle on this, it can be daunting, whilst Shopify and Google have made valiant efforts to “score” sites it’s still a little confusing, and when you dig a little deeper it seems as though you might need a degree in data science to unlock the keys.

Luckily there have been numerous studies around this exact fact, dating back as far as 2009. What transpires is that ”e-commerce acceptance” or in other words, the optimal page load speed you should look to achieve across your site is 2 seconds or less.

What's more, the penalty for every second you go above that threshold is a 4% drop on conversion. To give you some context, Google whose business model is arguably rooted in creating great user experiences, currently aims for under 0.5 seconds. On top of that, it has been found that sites that rank highly in search, average out at around 1.5 seconds.

The optimal page load speed you should look to achieve across your site is 2 seconds or less. What's more, the penalty for every second you go above that threshold is a 4% drop in conversion.

Shopify site speed.

So with “2 seconds or under” as your new religion, how does this apply to your Shopify site and the platform in general. The key to putting your efforts in the right place lays in understanding that Shopify has two two key components to your site's speed. The aspects you can control and aspects you cannot.

While you cannot control the customer's device, network speed, location or the Shopify CDN (which is by the way, is always incredibly fast, available and powered by Fastly) you can control everything to do with your site's visual presentation and functionality of your store's theme. 

This includes the type of images, and media you present right through to the quality of the code, number of interactive elements and third party plugins you include on your page. 

Given that, what you put on your page affects load speed it stands to reason that nothing should be in your code or on your page that doesn’t have a key purpose in achieving the goal of the page. Be that adding to cart, making a selection or signing up for a newsletter.

You have to ask yourself, does this awesome “widget, app or UX design” make the customer more likely to do what we want? if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t have a place on the page.

In the beginning, when you first start, this can be done intuitively by taking a strictly minimal approach to your site. However as your business grows and gets more complex, it becomes vital to have access to both great data and partnerships with Shopify specialists that allow you to turn this into actionable tasks that can make a real difference to your business.

For example a 1% uptick in conversion (which is typical and achievable gains from speed optimisation) could create £50k in additional revenue for a business turning over £5m a year.

Taking it even further, businesses that want all the benefits of Shopify but total control over the deployment and delivery of the site, can opt to go headless, which can provide even more fine grained control over page load speed.

The key takeaways.

So speed isn’t just about, well, speed, it’s also about optimisation. Optimisation that should be applied across all aspects of your business from your marketing messages to your online store, and user experience. In doing so, it will have far reaching and positive impacts for your online business beyond just the satisfaction of achieving sub 2 second page loads.

So to round things out here’s some nice easy to read and actionable bullets points 🙂

  1. Keep your Shopify theme layer as light as possible. That means only include what you need to convert customers. Use images, interactive elements and of course apps sparingly.
  2. Measure, test then rinse repeat. Make sure your gathering usable data, this can be done via Google Analytics for free or paid via platforms like HotJar or Full Story 
  3. Work with a Shopify team that has the technical ability to do the complex engineering that will give your site the edge it deserves.
  4. Understand that speed is not just a one hit wonder, a well established and busy Shopify store is in constant flux and will need regular tuning. 
  5. Paying attention to your speed creates real returns over the duration of the year, not just because you made it faster but because it requires you to review the customer experience and improve it.
  6. Your site should load in 2 seconds or less - if it doesn’t then there is room for considerable improvement.

Thanks for reading, we’re Inspira Digital.

We launched the 123rd store on Shopify, today we are one of the most experienced Shopify Experts in the world, delivering industry-leading Shopify services for fast-growing ambitious brands. We have helped build 100s of successful stores and have delivered 1000s of individual projects for Shopify and Shopify Plus clients globally.

Clients that work with us know we work passionately, to make sense of your commerce business, so if you want to talk to a team of experts about how best to take advantage of the Shopify platform, then let's talk.

Inspira Digital — High volume commerce handled beautifully.

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