In this episode, we discuss why 3rd party apps impact Shopify merchant site speed and conversion. Our guest on the show is Darin Archer, Vice President of Product Strategy at yottaa.com.
On the Show Today, You’ll Learn:
- How important is site speed for retaining website visitors
- What do shoppers prioritize when it comes to websites
- What is the relationship between speed optimization, SEO, and overall website performance
- What should merchants do next when they identify website performance or speed issues using analytics and reports
- How do challenges with third-party services impact e-commerce conversion rate and revenue per session
Links & Resources
About Our Podcast Guest: Darin Archer
Darin Archer Vice President Product Strategy at yottaa.com the market leader in site speed performance. Darin drives Yottaa's product strategy, expanding web performance to optimize digital experiences for speed and commercial success. With experience at Gap, Adobe, Intel, IBM, and Accenture, he's a transformative leader. Darin's also an alumni of the University of Montana.
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Claus Lauter: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the e-commerce coffee break podcast. Did you know that 90% of consumers will leave a site if it's not loading quick enough? So in a nutshell, shoppers won't wait for your website. Site speed is obviously very important. That's the topic of today. And with me on the show today, I have Darin Archer.
He is the vice president of product strategy at yota. com. That's Y O T T A A dot com. They are the market leader in site speed performance. Darren drives Yota's product strategy, expanding web performance to optimize digital experience for speed and commercial success. With experience at GAP, Adobe, Intel, IBM, and Accenture, he's a transformative leader, and he's also an alumni of the University of Montana.
So let's welcome Darren to the show. Hi, how are you today?
Darin Archer: Hey, thank you very much, Klaus, for having me. I'm excited to be here. I'm very
Claus Lauter: excited to talk about site speed. It's for a lot of merchants, a bit of afterthought, and it's so important. So tell me why is site speed important?
Darin Archer: It's interesting.
If you think about the history of the web, we started particularly, I'll keep it framed on e commerce. We started with pretty static websites, right? And so how the sites loaded, we had a basic concept of, hey, let's start to cache. The web experience for users closer to where they're actually requesting it, whether it's at home or their office, et cetera.
And that kind of got us through web 1. 0, if you will. And then there was that explosion of the user generated content and websites becoming a lot more personalized and more importantly, e commerce sites are so dynamic, right? Cause so much of what loads for that customer experience is based on the behavior of the customer.
Have they been there before? What browsers are they using? Where are they at in the world? Things like that. And so over time, our e commerce storefronts have become our garages or our closets, and we start adding lots to them. Sometimes it's great capabilities from third parties. Other times it's little free things that we've developers found and added to try to make maybe some cool carousel on a homepage, et cetera.
All this starts to add up to having an impact on what that customer experience is and how fast it loads. what we see is a lot of consumers. And I think you and I as well, and everyone listening there's moments where we actually sit down to go shopping, so to speak, right.
Whether it's on our phone or a laptop or whatever, out in the physical world. And then there are moments where we're casually in and out of that. And if you don't really have that site performance styled in, then oftentimes a lot of those folks are just bouncing and go on to the next activity or task that they could be focused on.
And so that's really. Where I see an interesting change now is that there's a lot more competition out there for customers the consumer attention. we've been really good as an industry of finding ways to move beyond just what the e commerce platforms give us out of the box and add some very, very cool things from many companies sometimes built , are by our own teams to create that real fit for purpose that rich customer experience whether it's.
product recommendations or personalization capabilities, et cetera. But they all come with a little bit of a tax on the site, right? that's really where the opportunity is.
Claus Lauter: Yeah. I think a good point that you mentioned there, more features have a, or might have an impact on the speed. And obviously no one wants to wait.
Everyone is already annoyed if a site is loading a little bit slower than you probably do. The user experience is just not good there. Now in big companies like Amazon, they spend a ton of money in speed optimization. If it's slower than three seconds, I think you'll, you're losing out there.
Tell me a little bit about. The advantages of or going through a speed optimization process, because a lot of versions, obviously their test on in their office was a fast internet connection in their browser. And I have heard that more than once. And I say, well, everything looks fine. It's loading fast on desktop.
Darin Archer: problem with it? What's the problem? First, first thing there is I say, wifi off on your phone and going to your own store and then see how it loads on your cellular connection. Right. Cause the reality is most of our traffic. And most of our customers on the Shopify stores, most of the traffic is mobile and most of conversions nowadays depending on the brand are actually increasingly mobile.
So a lot of times that viewpoint isn't accurate, right? So that's, I think step one is do you have a tool in place that will allow you to Know what your customer experience really is. And a lot of our customers have come to us because Shopify does a great job giving you a lot out of the box.
And then there's other free analytics tools in the digital analytics side, like Google analytics. But they've all been, they've all grown up and evolved to show you how the performance of the website is in the sense of like the commercial performance or how many people came to the site and did they add to cart?
And what products did they look at? And did they check out, et cetera? But they haven't told you, did the page load in a time frame that was relevant to that consumer on the other end and did all of the components of that customer experience that you're often paying for, right? With maybe third party apps, et cetera, did everything actually load, get orchestrated and come together to have that really compelling experience.
And so that's the first foundational element, right? Putting in what we call real user monitoring. So not synthetic tests, which can be an example like that, or using a lighthouse score, even the Shopify performance score built into the tools. Right. But really looking at in aggregate, all of your shoppers, how are they hitting the site?
How many of them are getting a homepage, this loading in three seconds or less, right? Is it the majority or not? What's really interesting. So what we've done is we've got about. 2, 000 sites running Yoda today. Some of them leveraging our free analytics tools and some of them leveraging us for full optimization to accelerate the site.
But, the loading of that page is actually the culmination of your themes, right? You're the templates that you've either taken or customized from your Shopify store, as well as all the third party apps that you've added. And what we see on the Shopify customers that we work with. Believe it or not, on average, there's almost 60 third party apps added to their site experience.
So when you think about that, right, even if you've picked one of the greatest themes out there, one of the most performant themes, and you had maybe whether it was in house developers or really great agencies supporting you, they might have created just a beautiful high performing website, both mobile desktop, but then you still have all these other development teams that you don't really think about.
And it's from these third party apps and sometimes they're beacons for analytics or ad tech and things of that nature. But more often it's things that you've added to create a more compelling customer experience, right? Whether it's those product recommendations various personalization tools, something that maybe puts your products together in certain ways and all of those begin to add up.
And that's the piece that, a lot of companies miss. Where we come in is we've really been purpose built for this era where we saw a trend early on with e commerce, particularly. Right. As the tag manager was introduced, the tag manager came out and it made it real easy for marketers to deploy almost anything.
And then you look at the innovation from Shopify with the app store. It is just phenomenal how easy it is. Right. And I'm very excited having something in the app store, but when I think about it from the merchant side. It's like you can try something new with a click of a button. That's great.
But then how well does it perform with everything else you have on the site? And , is everything working together? And is it loading in the right way? , and in some cases does even have the commercial cumulative positive effect that you were hoping for. So where Yoda kind of came to be was early days, starting off working at the edge and really focused on.
Thank you. Accelerating that content to the customer, to the browser. We still have a lot of great capability there, but then it was also looking at what's happening with all these third party apps and the website itself. And how can we make it, , come together like an orchestra instead of like maybe a high school band falling out of a school bus.
And that's really the difference between sites that are using Yoda or not.
Claus Lauter: I think an important part that you mentioned there is that. There are still a lot of factors that can slow down your site. I think Shopify miscommunicated when, online shopping 2. 0 came out that the problem that they had in the past, you install an app, you de install an app and there's junk code left over, which will slow your site.
That problem is solved. That does not solve the problem that the third party supplier still might be slow. Now, once you have your reports, your analytics, your overview, what would be the next step then? So I figure out something is not working well. So as a merchant, not as a developer, as a merchant, what should be the
Darin Archer: next step?
Even on that first part it's interesting because while that cleanup part has been improved, there are still a lot of merchants that get things onto their site through various other methods, right? It could be a developer that's putting something in at source code level, right? Building into the template and you have that even Increasingly as some try to do their own storefronts as well, right.
In that kind of headless fashion, and then some are using the tag managers to deploy things too. So one of the first things we can do for companies is we can give them that audit. Like, do you really know what's running on your site and not only what's running, but is it running everywhere that you want it to run?
For example, you may have chosen something to only be on the homepage, but did it end up like scattered throughout every page? Because it got pushed out as part of the whole theme. So we can first give that audit and actually show here are all the third parties and even first part things, things that you've been added that you may or may not know that we're running.
And we give that inventory and some ongoing governance so that you actually know what's going. And oftentimes there are surprises where they think that that's not supposed to be there. Like we took that off months ago where we thought we did. And it's like, well, it's still on these pages. You just didn't know it.
So there's that, that foundation element and then the next step is moving into optimization. So really that's where we start to focus next is like, okay, how can we orchestrate that experience to be a lot faster, a lot better. I made the joke about the difference between the sound of a great orchestra or the great orchestra conductor versus some kids falling off a bus, but that's partly what we do as well.
When a site is optimized by Yoda, when that customer is hitting their the Shopify store, we are right there helping to make sure that kind of everything is loading in a certain way. One analogy we've used is it can be like a nightclub or something. Imagine opening nightclub.
If you have all of your v i p guests go first and knock you at the door before staff is there. You've even opened up, you're gonna have a mess, right? You've gotta get your employees in first. Get the place cleaned up. Bartenders are there. And even some of your staff, right? That may be some of your key analytics engines, beacons, things like that.
That may be needed for something to report out, or it might even be like your personalization engines, right? Making sure that you're going to have a best report and then it's about knowing what to sequence. And where to load each individual third party app if you're trying to get someone off a campaign, maybe they're coming in from an ad you bought on Facebook or something you're doing on Tik TOK and you are driving them to a landing page or product listing page.
Do you need everything loading there, or do you want everything loading up front before even your product information is loaded for that campaign? So a lot of we do is optimize how things load and can sequence things in a way that makes it a lot faster while also making sure it works. A lot of times companies that get into this bloated state where they have too much stuff running on their site, and they know it's a performance problem, the first instinct is to have a developer.
Either one of the in house or maybe an agency partner to start deferring things. Well, let's load the basic store template and then we'll load all the third parties. And it's like, okay, but again, you purchased something to create that personalized experience. And if the page is loading before the personalization engine gets to run and taking advantage, in a consideration, my purchase history or inventory or things like my location, then you're not creating the customer experience you want.
And so that's really where we step in and try to solve it to make sure you can. Have your cake and eat it too. Yeah, makes
Claus Lauter: perfect sense. Now, optimization, site speed optimization is not only about usability. It's also about conversion rates because that's what at the end of the day, that's what you want.
Can you give me some examples or numbers on how the impacts can be?
Darin Archer: it's a fairly surprising. I've been in the e commerce space for over 20 years now in different capacities. I've had roles where I've been. Like some of your guests in an operator role on an e commerce team have been in cases where I've been on the agency side or SI building experiences.
And then also in roles like to this, where I'm trying to bring solutions to market for e commerce leaders. And the thing that really surprised me is how big this problem is and how much it adds up to the impact on your revenue. Cause if you step back and just think from the traditional e commerce.
Metrics that we look at, right? You, of course, start with your traffic. That's your denominator. And you think about how am I going to get traffic? I've got, organic traffic that I'm going to try to inspire. I've also got paid traffic and social, et cetera. And then once I get that traffic there, I'm trying to have it be productive, right?
Not bounce out. I want folks to get to know my brand, get to know my products, add something to cart, go through an order, check out and have a traditional conversion. And. And increase that overall revenue per session a visitor of the website, but when you have so many other things stepping in front of that customer experience, sometimes it can actually impact it quite a bit on, on average, it is those third parties are about 75% of the page at the time.
So, as you can imagine, if it's that great of a proportion of it, it's going to have a pretty big impact to your conversion rates too. And we. We have seen oftentimes conversion rate lifts of 6 to 12% with just some slight adjustments there to how things load because they have such a big draw on it.
And then other times it's much bigger. 70% of performance issues are actually typically. These third party components, a lot of folks think it's the code that they own and that whether the theme or some templates that they've used or they've modified, et cetera, but it's actually the vast majority of is these third parties.
And so once we get that really humming, then you can really start to drive some lifts, in the conversion. And we actually look at conversion in a few different ways, because we can model it out over what happens at different, time intervals. Cause on the one hand. Within eCommerce teams, you often have the age old sales versus marketing, right?
The eCommerce persons focus on their conversion metric, marketing is trying to get traffic to the site, et cetera. And then they're all pointing each other why there are more sales, in that a lot of it is figuring out. Okay, how are we going to create these experiences, but get it loaded and get them through?
And so we can do things that also turns things off and make it so that maybe on the cart page, not everything is firing that needs to be firing on a campaign landing page, for example. So there's a lot that can be done there. But what's interesting is, The how long a brand has changes.
So we talk about the mythical three second rule in the industry. And it's definitely well supported by a lot of data, but it's not for every brand. And so what I would also offer for the marketing folks listening in cause I've had these debates many times with folks at both sides.
There is that kind of that give and take of. Well, I want a really compelling homepage. I want it to be exceptionally beautiful, et cetera, right? And so maybe you want videos running. You've got the really big imagery hero marquees that are full page things, right? I've had CMOs that have chased those dreams and I've had others that are, have pretty lean commerce experiences that you can tell the salesperson won over on the design, But there are ways to doing both, and it does actually depend on your customer. And so if you think about the products that you might sell, if you've got a high consideration product, well, then you're going to want more storytelling. You're going to want a richer experience because you've got to get them through that consideration phase.
And so what we show in our data is actually that conversion rates will change by brands and by segments and what you bring to market. So for example a brand like that's selling a high consideration product, but is it maybe like a luxury brand or something, their customers might actually give them four to five seconds on average before the bounce rates really start to spike.
Now, on the other hand, if you are a merchant that is mostly selling a product that is. Purchasable elsewhere, like maybe Amazon or other retailers, you get a much smaller window of forgiveness for that site speed and your conversion zone to really optimize that. That's those sales might be a 2 seconds.
That's another thing that we work on is brand to brand, depending on how you go to market, what your customer relationship is what needs to be optimized for that. think there's a
Claus Lauter: lot of very valuable advice in there, and it shows you that you're in the business for a long time, a very similar experience on my side.
So for our listeners, listen to this twice. There's a lot of golden nuggets in there. When you look at your own site if you're a marketing or a salesperson, there's a lot of truths in there. Now, obviously to come up to conclusions there, you need to have a bit of data. What's the amount of data you need before you really can make a good result or give a good advice on what to optimize?
Darin Archer: Yeah. That is always the hardest challenge. And it really depends on the traffic to the site and orders. What we try to do is really customized to each merchant and they usually know their customer and their traffic, but we try to always help make a data driven decision here.
That's really our model for optimizing digital experience, not only. What part we may play a role in, but anything else going on out there. So it can really range depending on obviously traffic and order volumes. But one of the ways we go into this is we offer pilots to customers to see what optimized with Yoda is like, what the results are against unoptimized, and we can feed that data back into like Google analytics or other places.
So it can be a very data driven decision. A lot of times that only takes. A couple of weeks to hit something that would be known in the industry is like statistically significant, right? some companies, maybe on the smaller side could even be large revenue brands, but maybe they have big cycles in their, in the calendar year of when they have lots of sales, whatnot, depending on the order volume, it might take a few weeks, might even take a month.
And then with some of those customers, a lot of what we do is it's pretty obvious how big a lift the performance is when you have us optimize those pages, because we can actually show immediately with the analytics data that, Hey. This page is now loading 30, 40% faster. And that's, those are our low averages.
That's like our median. We have a lot of sites that will it can come back to how well will those templates design and the themes working, et cetera, but it could be as high as like 60%. And so then we have to make the argument, especially in this kind of economy, right?
If everyone's trying to figure out like, all right, what should I really be adding right now? That's going to take advantage of my organic traffic and hopefully produce a different result. And so we can give some trials there. We can also just back into it later make some commitments on the SLA front, et cetera.
But usually the model is to let's let the merchant try it out and see it, see the performance. And then we will show a continuous impact. And then throughout the relationship with our customers, we do usually about a 99, one or 90, 10 split where we continuously show. Hey, here is customers that were to your site that got the fast experience optimized.
And then you can look at things like here, what's the conversion rate and the revenue per sessions and all that. And then here are customers that weren't. And so there's that continuous proof point, which is a big part of our relationship with our
Claus Lauter: customers. What I like on Yota is that it really integrates with Shopify.
So it's a site speed performance tool that really works within Shopify with the data coming through there. And I think I haven't heard about anyone else doing that. I think it's a huge benefit on using this now. Who's your perfect customer who should use it?
Darin Archer: Ultimately it's a brand that has some good sales.
It's going through their site. So we are looking at more companies that are doing 5, 10, 10, plus 1, 000, 000 online sales revenue, their GMV but it also can be companies that might have. Larger revenue outside and there, but their site may not be a primary channel from a revenue perspective, but it's important for them that it has a great customer experience.
We see that a lot of brands where they may sell through traditional retail channels. Brand manufacturers, but then the site is truly important to them because they're okay. If someone's standing in a Lowe's and buys that barbecue, but they definitely that consumers are hitting their website and looking at the product detail page to get more information.
Whether or not they convert on that page or not, they want that there so we can support both those, but it's in that kind of 10Million and above GMV. From below there, we have a great app store offering and the free analytics as well.
Claus Lauter: Sounds great. How does the onboarding process work? It's
Darin Archer: really fast.
So that is also one of the blessings and the curses as we've described of Shopify and how easy it is to get something deployed. We're in that bucket. We can, click some buttons in the app store and we get deployed and we can work with the team to get, , deployed, , at the source as well, with a developer.
Getting contracts at NDA side, but the nice thing is it's fast. If you've got folks out there that are thinking about their back to school. Prepping for holiday we've had a lot of companies, believe it or not, even right up to peak where they realize they worked all summer, they deployed some new experience, maybe a new theme changed the homepage, whatever it was.
And it's not performing and we can quickly turn on for them and give them a little bit of a boost, which is nice because I think if you're e commerce leader right now, and someone can give you a 5 plus percent conversion lift with flipping a switch. That really adds up, right?
And we've had some big stories in that way. 1 of our larger Shopify customers, Perry Ellis, they achieved a 15% lift in conversion when they turned us on. And that was from a 37% improvement in site speed after the, after they turned us on. And we've had, a number of companies in that kind of same boat where those fast implement 1, 1 customer said it was the best bang for their buck at 1 of our employee kickoff meetings this year.
And they were like, we were fighting themes and template changes for over a year, trying to hone the performance. And if we just knew all we had to do is flip a switch, we would have done that a long time ago. But there's a combination of both, right? Getting the 3rd parties. Figured out and then also leveraging analytics tools like us to also see where else you can draw improvement from in those templates.
Claus Lauter: Yeah, I think site speed performance optimization is one of the lowest hanging fruits that you can go to, to improve your conversions there.
Darin Archer: Especially right now. If you think about the costs of advertising, right. And the return on ad spend is dropped. Everyone's trying to figure out what, how do I make my organic traffic perform better?
This is a great area to focus on is start sitting down and huddling around site performance.
Claus Lauter: True. Give me a bit of an overview about the pricing. How do you charge for the service?
Darin Archer: So we charge based on page views because we're a little bit like a utility electricity service kind of thing where we've got to run some activity on it, on every one of those page views.
But we have a couple of different ways to, to tier that out, but it's basically just on page views. It's pretty simple rating algorithm. And then you can. Again, we will show that performance lift and usually we have payback periods that are usually measured in weeks, which is pretty nice.
Months at worst. So that's the fun part as I shared with you earlier, like, 1 of the. I'm very excited about what we do because we've got one of those products where it does what we say it does and we can bring you on the journey and you can get your business really optimized real fast, but it's reaching out and catching folks and letting them know that, Hey, a site performance is important, right?
Let's get it prioritized. Let's get it on the project list. And then B there's some quick win areas that you can actually take advantage of right now to help out.
Claus Lauter: Yeah, and I think right now is the best time to start so that you're ready in queue for when can people find out more about
Darin Archer: Jota head to Jota.
com Y O T T A a. com or check us out on the app store as well. And turn it on, take a spin and we'd love to talk to anyone that wants to learn more about site speed and we're happy to do some evaluations as well. We have a great performance engineering team that. Does a lot of quick evals and audits for, for companies that are just trying to figure out where they're at.
So we can do that as well. Well, for our
Claus Lauter: listeners, I will put the links in the show notes as always. So you just one click away. Darren, thanks so much for giving us an overview on the importance of site speed. I'm a big fan of everything that can be optimized on that site. As I said, it's an easy win. And sometimes you'll find golden nuggets that you're not aware of.
Thanks so much for your time today.
Darin Archer: Thank you.
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