Hello M-Commerce Immersion. Goodbye CDNs. You Don’t Cut It Anymore.

Corinna Krueger

DOWNLOAD whitepaper: Failure or Success for Next-Generation Mobile Commerce

Gorgeous, colorful, detailed, rich, zoomable, delectable, enticing, irresistible product images drive online sales. But OMG they hurt website performance. What’s a supersite to do?

Whether your website sells vacations, Gucci bags, or vehicles, you’ve always had to manage the tradeoff of speed versus a richer user experience that we could call “immersive.” Since approximately forever, the ruling paradigm was “you can deliver good response time or good images, but never both.” Thus, web publishers usually observed a ceiling of about 200k for image size, and many sites still sacrifice high-resolution imagery to protect the pace of the user experience.

Then came a flurry of studies confirming that big, zoomable, and visually powerful images sell, especially in luxury categories. Online consumers want a showroom-like experience where they can dive visually into granular details of a product, and jump quickly between products.

Upgraded e-commerce sites aim for both engaging functionality and rich imagery

E-tailers responded with an emerging class of premium, immersive websites that capitalize on high-resolution, richer photos of products, as well as more complex functionality including sophisticated personalization. With the limitations of content delivery networks, these websites struggle to deliver rich imagery fast enough—especially to keep mobile users from quitting in frustration.

From Hot Spots to Slow Spots

E-commerce is shifting from deskbound to mobile customers. This year, retail transactions executed over smartphones will eclipse $12 billion in the U.S. alone, according to Forrester. Research firm e-Marketer, which includes tablets in its numbers, forecasts total m-commerce at $38.4 billion in the US this year.

High-fidelity images, complex web applications, and smartphone usage have done their part to overburden last-mile Wifi. Hot spots have become slow spots.

Retina displays mean tablet owners can now see fine granular detail; the 2048-by-1536 pixel display in the third-generation iPad is twice as large as in the iPad 2 display. “Publishers of travel iPad apps and websites had better take all of their hotel and destination images and double down—or actually, double up—on them,” wrote Dennis Schaal at tnooz.com.

Sharper displays certainly raise the bar and low-resolution images look worse by the day. Online retailers cannot ignore the desire of mobile users to see products up close, because these are not tire-kickers. Owners of high-end mobile devices are strong buyers of expensive and luxury products online. Forrester Research also found that online purchase rates for tablet users are between 33% and 66% higher than non-tablet users.

E-commerce websites handcuffed. The user experience visually downgraded.

Content delivery networks cache your product pages for faster delivery across the wired Internet. They offer no benefit, however, over the increasingly congested Last Mile, the Wifi hop. As a result, online retailers have largely been handcuffed to low-resolution images, and stayed under the 250k threshold. They are frustrated, because they know customers would respond profitably to images 4x larger—if they loaded quickly. Nobody likes this visual downgrade of the user experience and it hurts conversions.

Visual downgrade eliminated on this website!

If you click on Bonfaire’s website you will see web application streaming in action. Those almost instantly zoomable product images, three to six per page, are about 1.5 MB each. It makes you want to buy that fantastic piece of haute couture, doesn’t it?

To read Bonfaire’s full story of retailing success with this technology, download their case study.

Web App Streaming for speed + visual motivation to buy

To recap, Instart Logic Web Application Streaming utilizes a new method of dissecting high-fidelity images to reduce wait time for the e-customer. We analyze and decide which parts of a web application are most important and stream these by order of priority, so website visitors can interact with the site faster. Unlike traditional CDNs, we accelerate all the way to the iPad in a Starbucks or the Samsung Galaxy in an air traveler’s hand. This is good news for e-commerce sites that seek to upgrade and become more immersive; without changing any code, they can enrich and speed up the whole user experience. Instart Logics’ customers report that user satisfaction, retention, and revenues have increased.

Takeaway: Rich images motivate buyers, but they slow down the user experience—unless you have a secret weapon to deliver ultra-fast website performance. Web Application Streaming enables a richer, immersive, yet fast experience even over wireless connections.