Avon, Peapod excel at website performance in first quarter

Thanks to improvements in the job market, consumer confidence — and spending — is on the rise. After experiencing gains for the past nine months, consumer spending is up more than 7 percent since last March. Also impressive, and more relevant to our conversation here, online spending is up 16.1 percent compared to the same time last year.

As spending has improved, so too has the website performance of Internet Retailer’s Top 50. The average response times of these sites dropped from five seconds in the first quarter of 2010 to 3.37 seconds last quarter. The average availability of these sites improved only slightly less dramatically, reaching 99.43 percent in Q1 2011 (up from 99.17 percent in Q1 2010).

The biggest news, however, is that for the first time since we started reporting our Web Performance Index for Retail, the two fastest websites also took the top positions in the availability rankings.

Avon Products, Inc. grabbed the title for the highest availability (99.96 percent) and the quickest response time, a near instantaneous 0.89 seconds. An incredible performance, and a huge improvement over Q1 2010 when availability came in at 99.90 percent and response time averaged 2.16 seconds.

Peapod, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Royal Ahold (based in the Netherlands) and one of America’s leading Internet grocers, takes second place in both categories. The site’s average response time for the quarter was just 1.29 seconds, and availability was 99.93 percent.

We’ll award the bronze medal this quarter to Kohl’s Department Store. Kohl’s 1.68 second response time was the third fastest out of all the retailers, and it scored high with availability as well — 99.70 percent. (See the full rankings of retailers’ website speed and availability in the charts below.)

Since we’ve been monitoring the performance of these sites for a year now, I also want to recognize the three brands that have shown the greatest year-over-year website performance improvements:

  1. 1-800-FLOWERS.COM decreased its average response time from 14.23 seconds in Q1 2010 to 4.89 seconds in Q1 2011.
  2. Buy.com reduced its average response time from 14.14 seconds to 5.15 seconds.
  3. Sony Style dropped its response time from 13.15 seconds to 4.18 seconds.

As gas prices continue their quick climb to $4 per gallon, and consumers look to cut back on driving, the online retail channel will likely become even more active and integral to retailers’ success. Delivering optimal website performance and a feel good user experience should remain a high priority as retailers look to capture this audience.

To compile the Web Performance Index, AlertSite monitors the home pages of these sites from 12 U.S. locations, every five minutes between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. EST. It measures the time it takes to render every object on the page. If a page does not fully render within 60 seconds, an error is recorded and counted against the overall availability of the site.