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I have a challenge for you.

Take your own website URL, or if you don’t have one, the site you visit most often and type it into Google’s mobile website speed testing tool. This tool gives you an assessment of how easily consumers can use your website performance on mobile, and suggestions on how to improve it. I’m guessing a number of you will be alarmed with the results, but that’s not surprising, a lot of European marketers had the same reaction when they were introduced to this tool at Google Digital Now 2017.

I attended this conference last week, which featured advertisers and agencies from all across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Roman Faminou, a Mobile Product Specialist at Google was the keynote speaker and he gave a unique insight into not only the importance of website speed, but how the majority of advertisers present were failing to meet their consumers’ demand for a quick and easy to navigate website. The average site speed time for website homepages amongst attendees was over 37 seconds (a number which drew audible gasps when announced!)

Working in the advertising industry, we’ve all been told over the last few years about how consumer’s attention spans are shrinking – a Microsoft consumer study currently puts this at 8 seconds in 2013, versus 12 seconds in 2000. So the ability to capture consumer’s attention with fast loading content is important.  Indeed Roman made a very provocative point here – your user experience does not always have to be perfect, it’s often worth sacrificing the ‘perfect’ user experience in order to guarantee a faster load time. Roman’s argument was supported by Google research, showing that a 1 second reduction in site speed can lead to;

  • 11% decrease in pageviews
  • 7% decrease in conversions
  • 16% decrease in user satisfaction

There is certainly merit to Roman (and Google’s) point of view. Site speed was something that I had perceived Irish websites were lagging behind on versus the rest of Europe, but it was apparent that our European colleagues are struggling to get the mix right. However, it’s clear that the Irish market still has some steps to take to develop a digital map footprint, never mind site speed. The recent Digital Health Index report released by the IE Domain Registry (IEDR) found that;

  1. 22% of Irish SME’s have zero online presence (including websites and social media)
  2. Only 33% of Irish SME websites can process sales orders online.

These are disquieting figures and it suggests that a number of Irish retailers remain short sighted in their strategic business thinking. As the IEDR report highlights, over 50% of Irish consumer e-commerce spend (predicted to total €14billion by 2021) will go abroad, which shows how big of a slice of the pie Irish retailers are missing out on. A lack of online presence ignores not only the ability to sell product directly, but also the key role of online as a research channel before purchasing in-store – highlighted here in research by Google’s Consumer Barometer report, which found that 59% of Irish respondents researched online before purchasing a product, with 31% reporting they researched online before purchasing offline.

All of this highlights an inertia towards digital that restricts not only the ability sell online, but offline too. In the end it all comes back to the consumer. Businesses who obsess over their consumer are more likely to succeed. Irish business has always prided themselves on their ability to provide the most complete customer experience, but they need to remember the experience does not just start when they walk through the front door and pick up the basket.