For e-commerce businesses, time is literally money. Just a few seconds can be the difference between a site visitor making a purchase or abandoning your site. And those few seconds are all based on how long your Shopify store takes to load.

If your store’s time to interaction (TTI)—the time between a shopper clicking on a link and your Shopify page fully loading—is longer than three seconds, 53 percent of your potential customers will abandon your website and seek out your competition. And competition is pretty fast: In a recent study by Pingdom, 78 percent of the highest-ranking e-commerce sites had a load time shorter than three seconds—and the three top performers all loaded in under one second.

That sub-second TTI is the goal for your Shopify store. In a digital landscape where every second counts and shopper patient is steadily dropping, the benchmark load time for retail websites is really closer to two seconds.

Impact of a Slow Site

This small difference in time can have a major impact—a delay of one second on your Shopify store could mean:

  • An 11 percent drop in pageviews
  • A seven percent loss in conversions
  • A 16 percent loss in potential customer base

As just one example, for Amazon, a slowdown of a single second could cost up to $1.6 billion in sales annually. In addition, Google has already announced that site speed is becoming a more prominent ranking factor in its search algorithm—meaning less opportunity for potential customers to see your site.

The potential negative effects make your Shopify store’s load time a factor you can’t ignore. Whether your e-commerce site is achieving the two-second benchmark or takes much longer to display, giving it a speed boost begins with understanding your site’s current performance.

Analyzing Your Shopify Store

Having a baseline of your e-commerce site’s current stats will give you a better idea of where you stand—and what you need to do to shorten that page load time. There are many tools that can help you analyze your store’s current performance, including several free options. Your choice of page speed tool is not as important as using its analysis to improve your Shopify site though. Some popular performance-measuring tools are:

Boosting Your Site’s Speed

Armed with an overview of your store’s performance, you can then begin to drill down to specific factors that are affecting your store’s load time. The following are a few of the usual suspects when it comes to slowing down websites, as well as the changes you can make to build your Shopify stores for speed.

Bloated Image Files

Images make up to 60 percent of an average page’s total size and are undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of your store. While high-quality images certainly have a role in selling your products, they can also be one of the biggest contributors to an long page loading time, increasing your site’s TTI exponentially. Understanding key aspects of your images can help you streamline them for a faster-moving site.

  • Image format: JPG is generally the standard for high-quality product images—keeping processing to a minimum will keep your image quality high while the file size low. PNGs should only be used when image transparency is essential and GIFs should be restricted to small animations with limited colors.
  • Image size: Oversized images take longer to load. Ideally, you can quickly reduce your page load time by using the exact dimensions you need for your images, instead of having the website shrink much larger images—which come with much larger files.

Non-Mobile Friendly Website Features

Mobile browsing is more popular than ever, and part of your Shopify store’s speed rating should take its mobile load time into consideration. With 37 percent of shoppers starting on mobile, it’s something you can’t afford to ignore. While mobile shoppers have slightly different expectations for page speed, there are additional factors that contribute to load time on mobile devices. The analysis tools listed above can help identify where your website can be more mobile-friendly.

Oversized CSS

The coding behind your website can also impact your store’s page load time. Enriched user experiences offered by advanced CSS and JavaScript elements also result in a serious slowdown of websites, which is far from optimal. Minification, which removes all unnecessary characters from your source code, makes your CSS more compact without removing any functionality.

Two tools that can help you shrink your CSS and other coded elements are:

Excessive HTTP Requests and Redirects

Downloading the different parts of your web page—scripts, images, stylesheets, flash components and ads—compose up to 80 percent of that page’s load time. Each element results in an HTTP request, so the more elements you have on each Shopify store page, the longer that page will take to fully render.

Ways to reduce HTTP requests on your Shopify site:

  • Streamline the number of elements on your page
  • Combine multiple stylesheets into one
  • Use CSS instead of images
  • Reduce scripts and put them to bottom of the page
  • Minimize redirects on your site

Long-Distance Delivery

While it may surprise you in the global digital world, the physical distance between your website server and your visitors has direct impact on your website speed. Greater distance means a longer wait time for your visitors on the other end. If your dedicated server is in California but your visitors and traffic are from Europe, you would benefit from a Content Delivery Network (CDN) service. A CDN works by delivering your web pages and content from a server nearest to your visitor's location. Two examples of CDNs that can expedite delivering your Shopify store are CloudFlare and CloudFront.

Conclusion

Your Shopify store’s speed plays a critical role in the success of your e-commerce business. By analyzing your site’s performance and applying the above methods to decrease your page load time, you can increase your sales—as well as customer satisfaction and loyalty.