Website Speed Optimization with Shopify Plus

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Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms and it's easy to see why. The award-winning ecommerce platform is incredibly powerful for companies and brands of all sizes, helping to enhance customer experiences, streamline ecommerce performance, and boost site speeds. It's also an integral component of the website development services we offer here at Guidance.

As a hosted ecommerce solution that manages servers for all its online stores, the Shopify platform is committed to optimal performance. While there are many reasons to utilize the platform, one often overlooked benefit is website speed optimization for checkout pages. Read on to find out why this matters and how leveraging Shopify can improve your site performance.

The Importance of Website Speed Optimization

A fast, efficient website is a competitive advantage for brands, and it has a direct impact on your conversions. If your online store is having speed issues or the loading speed of your checkout pages are slow, there's a good chance your potential customers will call it quits and shop somewhere else. 

Though 15 seconds is a negligible amount of time in most contexts, it's light years in the world of online shopping. In fact, an estimated 40% of shoppers abandon sites when they take more than three seconds to load. What's more, even if your website visitors stick it out through a slow page load, a three-second waiting period makes customer satisfaction drop by 16%.

Also, a fast checkout page often still works for consumers accessing it from an older mobile device, a slow computer, or poor internet connection. However, a slow website and a slow device are usually a bad combo. In many cases, visitors won't be able to do what they came to do. All in all, fast load times help to ensure all customers can make purchases on your site.

Product page speed is also one of Google's ranking factors, meaning faster websites are prioritized in search results. For this reason alone, site speed is an essential part of a successful SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. As you can see, website speed optimization is crucial when it comes to your discoverability, bounce rate, conversions, and overall sales..

What Affects Site Speed?

A variety of factors impact site speed. Some aspects are out of your control, like the condition and capability of your customers' devices, their internet connection, and their mobile service, which can lead to slow load times. On the other hand, a visitor accessing your online store from a computer with a fast processor and a high-speed WiFi connection will rely on your site's loading speed to have a great experience.

Most ecommerce websites consist of various features, functions, codes, copy, embedded social feeds, imagery, and video content. While these components make a site unique and can contribute to a positive customer experience, they can also slow down your site speed.

For instance, the code, apps, and image size you use to achieve a specific appearance or functionality can slow down the performance of your online store. If you're able to remove an app, unneeded code, or change an image size, it can greatly improve your website speed.

Website Speed Optimization with Shopify Plus_2What affects your page speed scores?

Having a strong site speed is a crucial element of running an ecommerce site. Fortunately, there are several elements that can help you quantify and understand your page speed as well as learn how to improve it. These elements are called page speed scores. These page speed scores can help you take corrective action to speed up your site, but they are also heavily used by Google and other search engines to determine your search result rankings.

One of the best ways to see how your site will stack up is to use Google PageSpeed Insights. This site provides valuable data about load speeds and speeds of interactions on your website and provides an overall score of your site. The four key components that factor into your score are:

  • First Contentful Paint

  • First Input Delay

  • Largest Contentful Pain

  • Cumulative Layout Shift

These factors are called  Core Web Vitals and measure the overall speed and effectiveness of your site. Each has a different purpose. FCP measures the time between when a page starts loading and the point where the first piece of content shows on the screen. FIP is the time between when a user interacts with a page and when the page responds. LCP is the amount of time to load the largest piece of content on a page. CLS measures how often pieces of content move and shift in layout when a page loads.

Two new additional experimental metrics also help measure the responsiveness of your site. These are “Interaction to next paint” and “Time to first byte”. Interaction to next paint (INP) measures the interaction of the slowest component on a page, showing the time between when an interaction is requested and when the page responds. Time to first byte (TTFB) is the time it takes between when a resource is requested and when the first byte of a response starts to arrive.

Checking Your Site Speed

 The ecommerce platform you use can have an immense impact on your website's performance. That's why we recommend using a trusted POS system like Shopify. Shopify speed optimization is a priority for the platform. 

An advantage of utilizing Shopify or Shopify Plus is that you can check your site speed at any time. When you log into your account, you can see how the performance of your online store compares to other Shopify sites and gain insight into the standards for your industry. As Shopify has over 1 million brands on their platform, their data on industry standards is impressive.

It'll also tell you how your site speed has changed over time. Looking at a graph of your site performance can give you an idea of what may be slowing it down. For example, if you embedded a new theme three months ago and the report shows your site speed decreased around that time, you can be pretty sure the design update was the culprit.

How Utilizing Shopify Can Help Your Site Speed

Shopify is built for fast website speed and smooth performance. Also, Shopify's global network now has 180 PoP (points of presence) in 80 countries. This helps its servers effectively route all connections to its online stores and reduce website load times. In other words, customers can quickly access your ecommerce pages no matter where they are in the world.

In 2019, Shopify began automatically serving WebP images. The innovative format compresses the file size of website images by an average of more than 30%. Ultimately, WebP optimizes website speed by reducing the amount of data downloaded on a product page.

On its own, using Shopify can boost your online store's performance. That said, if you want to gain a competitive edge and drive more conversions, there are always more adjustments you can make to better optimize your load speed. Guidance has helped numerous merchants move to Shopify Plus and their success stories with online store speed speak for themselves. With many great features, it is easy to find out how to speed up your Shopify website.

An Example of Shopify Plus in Action

Hoonigan is a professional motor racing team and popular apparel brand with an audience "fueled on the shared passion of going fast and breaking things." With throngs of dedicated followers visiting its website every day and an immense, ever-growing library of video content, the company needed to rethink its website.

Hoonigan partnered with Guidance on an ecommerce migration strategy to enhance its shoppers' experience and increase cross-sell opportunities. Before joining forces with the Guidance team, Hoonigan was already using Shopify to run its site. Their Shopify site had been sufficient to a certain point but as they continued to grow, they were at risk of having to sacrifice store speed or the video content that is central to the brand.

By upgrading to Shopify Plus, Guidance was able to create an aggressive, unconventional solution that played to Hoonigan's strengths and core values. Further, Guidance explored using a customized Shopify theme, utilizing a third-party Shopify app for a page build or even Shopify's native coding language Liquid. In the end, we used a custom approach to maximize Shopify's capabilities while allowing for continuous, authentic content management.

Using a series of closed shortcodes lets Hoonigan manage, organize and deliver content without undermining their Shopify store speed. Guidance included a YouTube extension and merged it with a rich-text editor CMS (content management system), fusing it all together with the brand's edgy appeal.

The updated Hoonigan site now provides visitors with a smooth, efficient and entertaining experience that naturally prompts them to purchase clothing and accessories. Plus, Hoonigan can be true to its brand voice and enjoy fast website speed.

How to Get Started with Shopify for Site Speed Optimization

When visitors can't access your online store or the page load is slow, you can't expect them to stay, let alone make a purchase. By utilizing Shopify, you can boost your loading speed, site performance, and user experience.

Website speed optimization can be complex. If you need assistance with setting up your online store or want support with a migration, Guidance can help. As a Shopify Plus development company, we can help you create a custom ecommerce website with optimized checkout pages while tailoring each component to your brand's unique needs, pain points and objectives. Additionally, our seasoned Shopify developers will respond to all your questions, suggestions, and ideas along the way.

Contact us to get started on your Shopify speed optimization project today.

Written by Jason Meugniot
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