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Why “Holiday Mobile Performance” Is an Oxymoron

There is a definitive new requirement that performance testing include emulation of real-world mobile network conditions

Personally, I'm more of a last-minute holiday shopper, but nonetheless, there I was being dragged out to the brick and mortar stores on Black Friday. Given that my role seemed to be limited to that of manual laborer ("Honey, can you carry all this for me?"), I had a lot of time to people watch the zillions of other consumers doing their shopping. And I noticed a very common occurrence - something I don't think I'd seen much of before: People using their mobile devices to help them shop. Whether it was to figure out where the sales were, to compare prices among other retailers, to check availability of products, etc., it seemed like almost everyone was using their mobile device as a shopping tool. And this was for people already out shopping! It made me think that if that many people were using mobile devices while out at stores, what kind of Internet traffic was being generated from phones and tablets belonging to people who were at home?

It was no surprise to me then when news stories started appearing over the next few days (Black Friday through Cyber Monday) about the growing number of people using their devices to shop and how the Internet was experiencing tremendous increases in traffic. It seems that there was a 70% increase in consumers shopping with mobile devices compared to last year, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

And, because of this traffic, retail sites were facing all kinds of performance issues. Among the many stats I read was one that stated on Cyber Monday mobile websites were, on average, seven times slower than normal. This cannot be good for business! I wonder what percentage of consumers ended up purchasing from a competitor of their originally intended merchant because of poor website performance.

I also wonder what these companies are thinking. Have they not performance tested their website? Have retailers underestimated the amount of customers using mobile technology to access their sites? Looking at the site slowdowns on Cyber Monday there's clearly a problem... and the trend toward more use of mobile devices isn't going to slow soon.

Mobile technology adds an additional element to traditional load testing approaches that assume end users access websites only from desktop browsers. The network ramifications of mobile technology (signal strength, latency, packet loss, etc.) have a huge impact on the performance of websites and need to be accounted for when performance testing, as I mentioned in my last blog post on best practices for load testing mobile applications.

I don't know if there is a better example of why having excellent performance is important than the holiday shopping rush. And, with the increase of shoppers using mobile devices to aid in their shopping efforts (what will the numbers be next year?), there is a definitive new requirement that performance testing include emulation of real-world mobile network conditions. Because if your mobile website is too slow I'm not buying from you... and neither are your customers.

Addendum: Our latest version of NeoLoad now includes network emulation... huge for mobile load and performance testing.

More Stories By Steve Weisfeldt

Steve Weisfeldt is a Senior Performance Engineer at Neotys, a provider of load testing software for Web applications. Previously, he has worked as the President of Engine 1 Consulting, a services firm specializing in all facets of test automation. Prior to his involvement at Engine 1 Consulting, he was a Senior Systems Engineer at Aternity. Prior to that, Steve spent seven years at automated testing vendor Segue Software (acquired by Borland). While spending most of his time at Segue delivering professional services and training, he was also involved in pre-sales and product marketing efforts.

Being in the load and performance testing space since 1999, Steve has been involved in load and performance testing projects of all sizes, in industries that span the retail, financial services, insurance and manufacturing sectors. His expertise lies in enabling organizations to optimize their ability to develop, test and launch high-quality applications efficiently, on-time and on-budget. Steve graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Computer Engineering.

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