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Q3 2016 mobile site performance analysis

The ninth installment in an exclusive series, this publication is reporting on quarterly mobile site performance as monitored by Catchpoint Systems, New York. Find out in this installment how leading brands in the retail, banking and travel sectors fared.

Here, in its entirety, is the report as penned exclusively for this publication by Dennis Callaghan, director of industry innovation at Catchpoint.

Mobile retail
This quarter, the average median webpage load time for the mobile retail sites increased slightly to 2.64 seconds, up from 2.22 seconds in Q2, and 2.16 seconds in Q1. 

This is consistent with trends we have seen in past years where site content gradually creeps up due to the back-to-school and holiday ecommerce seasons, leading to slower site speeds. It is a bit concerning that this quarter?s average median webpage load time has already exceeded that of Q4 2015 (2.44 seconds).

The top five performers this quarter were Amazon (1.15 seconds), followed by Apple, Grainger, Costco and Best Buy, all of which delivered webpage load times well below two seconds. 

Only Apple and Grainger are repeat appearances from Q2?s leaders ? Amazon, Costco and Best Buy replaced Proflowers.com, Gap and Toys ?R? Us. 

In Q3, the average total downloaded bytes was 1.72MB, and each of this quarter?s top five performers were well under this average. 

Top-ranked Amazon was the second lightest site on the index, while Grainger (#3 performer) was the lightest. This shows a continued strong correlation between page weights and site speeds.

Mobile travel
In Q3, the average median webpage load time for the travel sites was 3.24 seconds, the slowest industry in our index. This represents the third consecutive quarter of increase ? in Q2, the average median webpage load time was 2.84 seconds, and in Q1 it was approximately 2.64 seconds. 

Oddly, the average total downloaded bytes in Q3 was the lowest for the travel sites ? 1.65MB ? and would have been lower if it were not for one particularly heavy site. Without that site, the average total downloaded bytes would have been 1.23MB. 

This quarter, the top five performers were, in order, Booking, Southwest, Delta, Priceline and Hotwire. 

The first four sites had median webpage load times of under two seconds, Hotwire was just slightly more than two seconds.  

All of these sites had an average total downloaded byte size of less than 1MB. 

In Q3, Southwest and Hotwire replaced Google Flights and TripAdvisor, which had been the first- and second-ranked performers in both Q1 and Q2, but have since dropped in our index.

Mobile banking
The mobile banking sites this quarter slowed from an average median webpage load time of 1.87 seconds (in both Q2 and Q1 2016) to 2.23 seconds. 

Still, the banking sites remain the fastest industry category on our index.  

The top five performers in Q3 were US Bank, Citizens Bank, Citibank, Bank of America and Capital One. Top performer US Bank ranked second in Q2. 

TD Bank, which held the top spot in both Q1 and Q2 with a sub-second webpage load time, slipped to a 2.86 median webpage response time. 

TD Bank and Wells Fargo were displaced in the top five by Bank of America and Capital One. This represents a shakeup, as the top five performers in Q2 were not only the same as in Q1, but also ranked in the exact same order.

In Q3, the average total downloaded bytes for the mobile banking sites was 1.9MB, with the average dragged down by one particularly heavy site. Without that site included, the average total downloaded bytes would have been .81 MB.  

The lightweight nature of mobile banking sites contributes significantly to their strong speeds.

SPEED IS everything for mobile sites, and while overall the sites in our index are doing well hitting within the two- to three-second mark, there are still areas for improvement. This includes keeping a close eye on the recent trajectory in slowing site speeds, which in turn will require careful attention to keeping pages as lightweight as possible. 

We saw many mobile retail sites with speed degradations directly linked to poorly performing third-party services during last year?s holiday season. 

These services will need to be monitored extremely closely this year, as mobile retail sites will have fewer excuses for poor performance during the all-important holiday rush.

The mobile travel sites demonstrated an interesting trend this quarter, as their webpage load times were the slowest, but their pages overall were the lightest. 

More than half the sites in our travel index were under 1MB. This anomaly was likely a result of mobile travel sites hosting many images on their sites.  

While these images may be optimized for speed, the sheer volume of downloads can quickly add up, leading to incremental increases in overall webpage load time.

Finally, the mobile banking sites, which tend to have the advantage of more streamlined, lighter pages compared to the retail and travel sites, should strive to bring their site speeds back within the range of previous quarters. 

Consumers often check bank accounts in tandem with making retail purchases and buying travel tickets. This means the banking sites too must ensure strong performance during the holidays to maintain and protect their brand reputations.

Dennis Callaghan is director of industry innovation at Catchpoint Systems, New York. Reach him at .