Think Fast

The 2019 Page Speed Report
Stats & Trends for Marketers

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In a nutshell…

Over October/November 2018, Unbounce surveyed 750 consumers and 395 marketers, and—while both groups already know slow page load times affect consumer behavior—nobody’s doing enough to avoid the consequences.

Key Findings:

  • When it comes to waiting for pages to load, most consumers think they’re more patient than they actually are.
  • Nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.
  • Although they know it’s important, the majority of marketers aren’t making page speed a priority.

Page speed should concern marketers, but does it?

Over the past three years, the average web page has doubled in size1 while connection speeds have remained stable. And so, the average time it takes for a page to load on mobile is now 15 seconds.2 Given that more than half of visitors leave a page if they’re forced to wait longer than 3 seconds,3 marketers need to get faster.

Like, way faster.

That was our hunch, anyway, but we wanted to investigate. At 2018’s Call to Action Conference (CTAConf) in Vancouver, we chatted with 188 attendees to look at the performance of their landing pages. During a brief session, they ran a page through Google’s “Test My Site” tool to see how fast it loaded. Despite the small sample size, the results startled us:

Most marketer landing pages don't hit acceptable speeds

Based on this check-in, 85% of participants’ landing pages were slower than Google’s recommendation of 5 seconds or less at a 3G connection.4 That’s not good news.

Most marketers aren’t hitting speeds that put them in Google’s good books. Because they’re too slow, they’re likely paying more than they need to for their search ads—and disappearing completely from organic search results.

And when their visitor experience is slower than expected, potential customers are more likely to become frustrated and leave. Some of ‘em even head to the competition. Why? According to Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media, there’s a pretty simple answer:

Web pages don’t have loading bars. So when the page is slow, the visitor doesn’t know if the delay will be another 500 milliseconds or 15 seconds. Maybe it will never load. And the back button is right there.

Andy Crestodina
Orbit Media

But we wanted to know more.

Our team wanted to know what both marketers and their customers think when it comes to load times and what obstacles marketers face when trying to speed up.

And so our follow-up surveys sought to answer these key questions:

  • Do both groups believe page speed influences consumer behavior? If so, what’s the nature of this influence?
  • For marketers, how much of a priority is improving page speed? What are they doing (or planning on doing) to improve it?
  • And what do marketers think about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)? Do they know what they are?

Here’s what we discovered…

Consumers don’t like slow pages.

We asked 750 everyday people about what happens when web pages are slow to load. Turns out they react in all sorts of ways that negatively affect your conversions.

When it comes to waiting, most consumers think they’re more patient than they actually are.

Almost three-quarters of the shoppers we surveyed claim they’ll wait 4 or more seconds before abandoning a page. But that’s not what Google says: remember, actual user behavior shows most people bounce after 3 seconds.

Visitors won't wait long for a page to load

Android users are more patient than iOS users. Of those who will wait 1-3 seconds for a page to load, 64% were iOS users while only 36% were Android users. Of those who said they’d wait 11-13 seconds, only 36% were iOS users versus 61% Android users. (iOS accounts for 65% of cellphones5 in the U.S.)

Nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed influences their likeliness to buy.

When it comes to browsing ecommerce sites, many people say they’re less likely to make a purchase (or even less likely to return in the future) if loading time is slower than expected. If you want them to buy your product, you need to ensure your site loads as quickly as possible, especially on a mobile phone.

Slow load times lead to fewer sales

East Coasters are less likely to buy from slow sites compared to West Coasters. Of the consumers living in New York, 82% admit that speed influences their decision to make a purchase, while only 60% of Californians agree that it influences them.
Young women want more from ecommerce. Far more young women (18-24) say they’ll close a tab and stop shopping than men of the same age. In this age bracket, 86% of women (compared to 14% of men) said they’re less likely to buy when a page is slow.

Half of all people say they’d be willing to give up animation and video for faster load times.

All those beautiful animations and videos that marketers love? Turns out a majority of your visitors don’t see much value in these elements if it’s going to slow them down. Heck, a quarter of respondents say they’d be willing to give up images as well! Think carefully before you include anything in your design that will slow your page down. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, consider cutting it.

For most people, fast speeds beat video and other media

What happens when people get frustrated? Almost half of consumers say they’ll try to refresh a page at least once when it takes 3 seconds to load. But 22% say they’ll close the tab, and 14% say they’ll visit a competitor’s site. If you count on 1000 daily visitors, that’s 360 potential customers gone. Yeesh.

Most consumers blame their internet connection before they blame your site. (Phew!)

Right now, it’s true that most people credit slowdown on factors outside of your control (like their internet provider). And hey, that’s good. But as more online brands improve performance, it’s likely that sites that stay slow will start to shoulder more of the blame.

Consumers blame their internet connection for slow down

According to analyst Peggy Anne Salz, the “lean-back experience of the laptop/desktop is a boost to consumers’ patience” but not all the time. Whether a page is intended for mobile or desktop viewing, delivering blazing speeds is always going to lead to less frustration:

Businesses should be careful about trying that patience as these are also platforms where people are eager and determined to get stuff done. Whether it’s top-funnel activities like researching a purchase or deep-funnel activities like making one, consumers don’t like to wait.

Peggy Anne Salz
MobileGroove

Young folks have much shorter attention spans on their mobile than they do on desktop. It’s no surprise that millennials crave instant gratification, especially when on their phones. 45% of 18-to-24-year-olds say they’ll wait 4-6 seconds on their computers, but only 26% of this age group will wait that long on a cellphone.

81% of marketers know speed influences their conversions, but they’re not making it a priority.

49% of marketers say they plan to spend $50,000 or more—sometimes way more—on their digital marketing this year. A majority also agree that improving load times is at least somewhat urgent.

But only a small percentage say it’s the most critical thing of their to-do list, despite the clear impact on their prospects’ willingness to make a purchase. In fact…

Only 3% of marketers say faster loads are their top priority in 2019.

Most marketers consider A/B testing and optimizing for more conversions to be their most important tasks. (We think A/B testing is important too.) But here’s what else they say they’re prioritizing over faster loading time:

Page speed sits at the bottom of the marketer to-do list

Krista Seiden, Analytics Advocate for Google, confirms that digital marketers are neglecting page speed (and that it’s a major problem):

Page speed is one of the most overlooked and yet most important factors in customer attention, retention, and ultimately, converting browsers to buyers. Ensuring that you’re taking measures to increase page speed or reduce lag can be the difference between failure and success.

Krista Seiden
Analytics Advocate, Google

Page speed should be higher on your list. If you’re planning on refining your ad targeting or your copy, but you still have slow pages, you’re essentially refining your Google Ads while spending more than you should (because Google will penalize your slow-loading pages). Fewer people will see your landing pages.

Many marketers are unsatisfied with their page speed, and most have taken some steps to improve it.

While improving load times isn’t their number one priority, marketers are taking some steps—if only optimizing images—to deliver faster speeds. Only 56% say they’re satisfied, though.

81 percent of marketers agree slow page speeds influence conversions

…but what are marketers doing to get faster?

  • 57% say they’ve optimized images, video, or other media files.
  • 43% have implemented back-end fixes like improved caching and hosting solutions.
  • 39% have run speed audits using Google Lighthouse or other tools.
  • 38% minified or reduced their dependence on JavaScript and CSS.
  • 22% implemented Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in some capacity.
  • 14% began using a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

It may be more surprising that 19% of marketers think load times do not have an influence on conversions. You might assume the average consumer is connecting at speeds faster than 3G, but that’s frequently not the case. Google projects that 70% of global load times will occur at 3G speeds through 2020.6

Most marketers know what load times they should target, but are they getting there?

A significant number of marketers say that 2-3 seconds is an acceptable load time, which is right on target with Google’s recommendation. Remember, though, that 85% of participants at CTAConf showed us landing pages slower than Google’s recommendation of 5 seconds or less!

Most marketers believe 2-3 seconds of load time is acceptable

Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and SparkToro, says speed is a “crucial component for so much of what creates a great experience that converts visitors to buyers.” There are many reasons you’ll want to speed up:

Speed improves your ability to rank well in search engines, the likelihood someone will amplify your work, the reach of your pages to those with slower connections, the percent of visitors who won’t hit that back button, and the odds that someone will feel elation versus frustration while using your site.

Few marketers have a strong understanding of AMP

Rand Fishkin
SparkToro

More reasons to speed up. In this report, we explore how load times impact consumer behavior (and, yes, your conversion rates). But thanks to incentives from Google, getting faster pays off in other ways too. By improving performance, you can expect better Quality Scores in Google Ads and higher organic search rankings.

Marketers and AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages are a mystery to most marketers, though 76% have at least heard of them.

Despite support from heavyweights like Google and Microsoft, nearly a quarter of marketers told us they’d never heard of the AMP framework before taking our survey. In fact, only 1 in 10 say they have a strong understanding of it.

Wait…what are Accelerated Mobile Pages? Hey, we don’t blame you for not knowing. AMP is a simplified HTML framework that lets you build especially fast-loading pages, perfect for creating engaging experiences for your prospects (and keeping Google happy).

A lack of understanding and limited developer capacity keep many marketers from implementing AMP.

It turns out that 57% of marketers have no current plans to implement AMP, while 23% are still considering it. The complexity of AMP seems to be the biggest hurdle: 64% of respondents either struggle to understand it or don’t have developers who can dedicate the time to it.

What’s next?

73% of marketers think that improving page speed is either somewhat urgent or very urgent.

That’s a good thing because they’re right. It’s unlikely that consumers are going to grow more patient with your pages.

In the survey, respondents told us that slow speeds impact their decision to buy: many consumers are less likely to buy, and some will even abandon your site for your competitors. And though a majority told us they’d wait longer than 3 seconds, they’re underestimating their own impatience. You shouldn’t.

Simply put, slow page speed is killing your conversions.

Despite this sense of urgency, few marketers are making it a priority. Most are dissatisfied with their speeds, but it’s clear that just optimizing images isn’t cutting it. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are one path to near-instant load times, but more than half of marketers have no current plans to implement the AMP framework. Ouch.

For the savvy, this hesitance is an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors in the race. In 2019, you need to make a change:

2019 will be the year of page speed for every business marketing online. Companies that can deliver lightning-fast user experiences will see a first-mover advantage—better Quality Scores, higher ad rank, and more leads and sales.

Ryan Engley
Unbounce

It’s time to get faster, marketers.

Get faster landing pages now.

Stop wasting your ad budget on clicks that don’t even see your content.

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About Unbounce

We’re the leader in landing pages, popups, and sticky bars. Since 2009, we’ve been the conversion platform of choice for marketers. Because we know the impact that page speed can have on conversions, we’re committed to helping our customers deliver the fastest loading times possible.

Methodology

Both surveys were fielded in October/November 2018.

The consumer portion of this survey was conducted by Google Surveys and adheres to their standard (and very rigorous) methodology. We targeted users in the general population of the United States using Google’s publisher network and mobile app. According to Google, “First, we use stratified sampling to dynamically target respondents with the goal of matching the demographics of the target internet population. Next, we apply post-stratification weighting to more closely match those same demographics of the target internet population.” You can read more about their research practices in this white paper. The survey asked 10 questions about their online habits and experiences with slow loading times.

For the marketer survey, adequate sample size was calculated using Cochran’s theorem.7 We gathered responses using a combination of email campaigns, social media channels, and paid advertising. We then screened for respondents in marketer roles. The survey asked 16 questions about their digital marketing as well as opinions about web performance and AMP.

Who participated?

Consumers

We asked 750 everyday consumers a similar series of questions about their attitudes and experiences when it comes to web performance. Here’s who participated:

Marketers

We created this report by asking 395 marketers across dozens of industries about the importance of page speed to their online marketing campaigns. Here’s a breakdown:

Sources

  1. Source: MachMetrics, 2018, “Website Size: The Average Web Page Size Is More than 2MB – Twice the Size of the Average Page Just 3 Years Ago”
  2. Source: Think with Google, 2018, “Find out how you stack up to new industry benchmarks for mobile page speed”
  3. Source: Think with Google, 2017, “Find out how you stack up to new industry benchmarks for mobile page speed”
  4. Source: Think with Google, 2018, “A few tips to speed up your mobile site and tools to test it”
  5. Source: Device Atlas, 2018, “Android v. iOS Market Share 2018”
  6. Source: Think with Google, 2016, Data Gallery
  7. Source: Cochran, W.G. (1977). Sampling Techniques, 3rd edn. Wiley. New York.

Contributors

Colin Loughran
Content Creator

Ha Dinh
Data Analyst

Sarah Gooding
PR & Communications Manager

Jennifer Pepper
Marketing Manager, Content Creation

Cecilia Martinez
Interactive Design Lead

Max Tims
Senior Strategy Manager

Rachel Scott
Marketing Manager, Campaign Strategy

Larissa Hildebrand
Product Marketing Manager

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