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How impatience drives our digital behaviour

23 Mar 2020

Article by ThousandEyes A/NZ regional sales manager Will Barrera.

Many people will be familiar with Google research showing that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

They may also be familiar with a 2012 NY Times article, citing a Microsoft computer scientist, that declared users visited sites less if they were 250 milliseconds, or one-quarter of a second, slower than those operated by rivals. “That is less time than a single eye blink,” the article says.

Both figures have become de facto benchmarks for what it takes to succeed at performance in the digital world.

Google’s research shows that, while the situation is improving, content still takes too long to load. 

The company boils it down to a simple equation of “speed equals revenue”. To take that a step further, a survey commissioned by Forter last year found that people start having second thoughts about stuff in their online shopping cart after just 22 seconds. 

Half of respondents indicated they were “less likely to buy something online if the entire checkout process takes longer than half a minute.” 

“Whether or not shoppers actually make a purchase may heavily depend on how long the online checkout process takes,” the company said. 

“The average customer will wait just ten seconds for their credit card to be verified, and one in three have clicked out of purchasing their item when having to re-enter their credit card info.”

This is important for two reasons.

First, it is a tangible illustration of how revenue is tied to the speed of your services. This is only going to become more critical as digital channels account for a larger portion of an organisation’s sales.

According to Gartner, 37% of enterprise sales will be conducted through digital sales and digital channels by 2020. Similarly, a recent survey by McKinsey shows that on average, 35% of a company's revenues worldwide are digitised. 

Second, it shows a challenge that many of us are becoming more familiar with or exposed to.

It is now common for a single app to call upon a range of third-party services in order to complete a transaction. How do you ensure elements that you do not own or host are performing as expected and not introducing delays that have material flow-on impacts to your own app’s user experience (and the revenue you draw from that)?

Owning the digital experience

To put it another way, the challenge is that you own your customer's digital experience, but you don't own the services that experience runs on. 

To gain those milliseconds and seconds that are needed to attract more customers, achieve competitive advantage, minimise service outages or meantime to recovery, you've got to be able to understand the network and services that your own services are running on.

Before your users even reach your site or app, they have to traverse a web of complex dependencies, which make up the internet. Your user comes in from their own ISP connection, is routed over the internet, and may pass through content delivery networks (CDN), DDoS mitigation and other security services on their way to your server. These are all components and pieces that your end users need to interact with, unbeknownst to them, before they even get to you.

The internet relies on a chain of implicit trust that doesn't always work. The routing protocol for the internet - Border Gateway Protocol or BGP, which is the mechanism used to figure out the best path for your customer to get to your front door - is notoriously fragile, and open to threats. BGP problems frequently make it hard to access large parts of the public-facing internet.

Additionally, on the backend, most applications today are also much more complex than they used to be. They are predominantly cloud-based and built on a set of shared APIs or microservices. These pull data and transactions in and out of other applications and third party resources. 

All of this works to make the entire equation of how a user gets to your app, and then what is their experience when they're interacting with your app or site, much more complex. 

Those that succeed in this world will likely have appropriate network intelligence systems in place that are capable of providing really deep visibility into the applications, networks and services that collectively contribute to the front-facing digital experience.