Ecommerce Lessons from Superbowl XLVIII

Ecommerce has given businesses unprecedented opportunities to compete with the big players.

In this changing landscape, we explore how smaller brands can outperform their market-leading rivals…

Written By
Dan Partridge

It would be unfair to describe the ecommerce landscape as a level playing field. Most start-ups will be unable to match the resources that an established brand has at its disposal. It’s certainly possible for smaller businesses to build better websites than their competitors – we’re doing this on a weekly basis – but in the short-term there is still much to be said for brand reputation and the loyalty of existing customers, not to mention staffing, advertising budgets etc.

What is true, however, is that ecommerce businesses have a great opportunity to experience significant financial growth that will threaten the market-share of leading brands.

This was beautifully highlighted by Christina Desmarais in a recent Inc. article. Her focus is on the back-end companies that host and manage brands’ website performance. She also provides compelling evidence for the argument that ecommerce businesses have much to gain in the current retail climate.

Desmarais’ article focuses on the performance of various brands who advertised during the recent 2014 Superbowl. Much of the focus at this time tends to be on individual marketing strategies, adverts and social media performance. What is often overlooked, however, is the back-end performance of the websites that represent those brands.

The results are intriguing.

American Eagle, a Chicago-based hosting company, implemented a comprehensive strategy to ensure that their client, Weather Tech, provided one of the best user experiences of any brand advertising in the Super Bowl.

They correctly identified page load speed as a key battle to fight.

We think that this represented a stroke of genius. A brand like Weather Tech cannot match Pepsi or Ford for pageviews. They can, however, prepare thoroughly, test their website to its limits and ensure that their site outperforms its bigger, better known rivals.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see that mobile optimization (ie responsive website design) is a battle that smaller brands are capable of winning, and winning big.

Desmarais puts it this way:

Most of the companies on Keynote’s ranking delivered content optimized for smartphones and tablets. But many of them bombed when it came to actual mobile performance, indicating that plenty of big brands haven’t yet figured out how to deliver a mobile website that’s both fast and beautiful…

For this year’s Super Bowl, “The average load time for advertiser sites on a smartphone was nearly 20 seconds, and only six sites came in at less than 10 seconds,” Keynote noted on its blog. “That’s well past user expectations of four seconds.”

It seems almost unbelievable that household name brands would neglect to deliver quality mobile performance, but it’s true. Weather Tech came in at 2nd place in the performance rankings, with the likes of Budweiser competing for the wooden spoon.

This is an area of web development that resonates deeply with us at the moment. There is a real tension between creating fast websites and beautiful websites.

We’re doing everything that we can to deliver both. We want to continue combining bespoke, beautiful designs with full mobile optimisation and a lightning-fast, user friendly package.

How are we doing this?

Well, we’re trusting Shopify. This platform gives us the creativity and flexibility that we need to produce the kind of website that our clients are looking for. It’s fast, reliable and easy enough for us to go off-piste with more innovative areas of web development. Shopify has grown from 50,000 to 90,000 users in less than 12 months, indicating that we’re not the only ones who feel this way.

We’re also pushing ourselves to continue developing this area of our business. We know that delivering an effective blend of beauty and performance helps our clients to get themselves way ahead of the growth curve.

Here is further evidence from The Telegraph that beating your rivals can be as simple as speeding up your web page.

Superbowl XLVIII Half Time (3) by Eugene Regis on Flickr, used under creative commons license.

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