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Many online shoppers won't wait 5 seconds for a page to load

Frustrated computer
Jamie Grill | Getty Images

If you make your customers wait online, you'd better make it worth their while. You've only got five seconds.

Speed and performance of a web retailers' site can can make the difference between a profitable year and a year in the red. Online shoppers expect quick service with lightning-fast load times and can easily click to a different e-retailer if their chosen shop disappoints.

A third of online shoppers will click away if they have to wait more than five seconds for a page to load, according to data from Soasta, a company that measure's website performance. The portion of users who click away while waiting for a page to load is referred to as the "bounce rate." A further one-second slowdown from five to six seconds increased users' bounce rate by a full 3 percentage points.

No one wants to hit the search button on Amazon and then wait 15 seconds for the page to load, but the Soasta data show that customers are aware that slowdowns can happen due to increased traffic online and are willing to wait, if they can expect a solid deal on the other side. The firm measured shopping behavior at 10 online retailers during Black Friday week in 2015.

During the Black Friday week, customers are often very specific about the products and prices they want, according to Tammy Everts, director of content at Soasta.

"Conversion rates tend to be higher during the shopping season, and bounce rates tend to be lower," Everts said. During normal (non-holiday) shopping, more than half of e-shoppers will click away by six seconds, she said.

The peak conversion rate for the sample studied — 5.7 percent — came at a load time of 2.4 seconds. Above that, and people start to click away.

Lost online visitors means lost revenue for retailers, and it can be significant. Two-thirds of retailers consider each online visitor worth a bare minimum of $20, and some merchants estimate their value at more than that. So losing thousands of potential sales due to slow-loading sites can be a real problem.

A recent report from Google found that mobile users are more impatient than desktop users are. More than 53 percent of mobile users will leave if a website doesn't load within three seconds. That's pretty rough, considering the average load time for sites is 19 seconds on a 3G connection and 14 seconds on 4G.