Keynote Systems reported that according to The Keynote E-Commerce Transaction Performance Index, major online shopping sites took a severe performance beating the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, and the traditional kick-off for the holiday shopping season.

During peak shopping time on Black Friday (9:00 a.m. till noon, pacific time) the Index showed that consumers could only complete a transaction – defined as the Web site's ability to allow a consumer to click through a number of pages and successfully make a purchase – 80 percent of the time. That means that almost one in five transactions attempted to be completed on the major holiday shopping sites failed.

Overall, Index results show that on Black Friday from 5:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. the average “success rate” for completing a transaction was 89.1 percent.

As a means of comparison, the day before Thanksgiving the Index showed that the average success rate was 98.4 percent. Clearly, the sites were not adequately prepared to deal with the level of increase in online shopping activity experienced on Black Friday. The Keynote E-Commerce Transaction Index is a Web transaction performance benchmark index that measures the response time and success rate for executing a typical multistep online retail transaction on 13 leading retail Web sites. The Index provides an excellent overall barometer for how successful leading online shopping sites are at providing customers an optimal quality of experience each and every time a customer goes to their Web site.

Studies have shown that a negative online shopping experience translates directly into lost revenue. Therefore, e-businesses must continually monitor "transaction quality" as experienced by actual end users.

"On the Friday after Thanksgiving several retail sites remained below 80 percent for the majority of the shopping hours. In effect, one out of five online visitors could not complete their transaction on the desired site. Performance stabilized on Saturday and Sunday as sites overcame the rush of Friday," said Roopak Patel, senior analyst in Keynote's Public Services group. "On Monday, as people headed back to work, the response times skyrocketed to as high as 65 seconds for particular sites (average response time is typically between 14 and 17 seconds) and success rates plunged for several sites to well below 80 percent."

With online retail sales last year totaling $93.1 billion as reported by the Dieringer Research Group and holiday online retail sales this year expected to increase to $20.4 billion from $12.6 billion last year, according to Brand Keys research, lost or incomplete transactions can quickly add up to staggering losses for large retailers.

"In the dog-eat-dog retail space, a competitor is truly only a click away," Patel continued. "If almost 20 out of 100 transactions fail, that could easily translate into tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Today's assessment dramatically underscores more than ever the need for retailers to measure and monitor transaction performance as experienced by end users."

According to Acquity Group, an e-business consultancy, "A number of very large retailers have failed to reinvest in the Web channel and they are plagued with transactions that get dropped ... with the lift of additional consumers coming online this season, it will be interesting to see if that lack of investment will be exposed." It appears it has been. Index results for the top performers and the worst average for the week of November 24 can be found at www.keynote.com/solutions/performance_indices/ecommerce/ecommerce.html.

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