The perception consumers have about a particular brand is extremely important if that organization wants to acquire and maintain them as customers. This perception comes from how they interact with the organization, recommendations, opinions from experts and advertising. Any negative experience will generally result in the customer having a poor opinion of that particular brand. In today's environment, one of the ways consumers interact with the organization is through the company's website. If the site is not properly managed and optimized to be accessible on all platforms, once again the perception of the brand will suffer. A study by Radware, provider of application delivery and application security solutions for virtual and cloud data centers, revealed network speed has a profound impact in how consumers view the company.
The study titled, "Mobile Web Stress: The Impact of Network Speed on Emotional Engagement and Brand Perception," shows how slow connections frustrate users and lowers their engagement with the company, demonstrating a strong correlation between the network speed and brand perception.
The study was thorough in its methodology to ensure the accuracy of the sentiment the consumer was feeling at the time the event was taking place. The neurological and emotional reactions to slow load times was evaluated with electroencephalography (EEG), eye-tracking technology and implicit response testing. The subjects were then examined on a moment-by-moment basis of their negative and positive emotions and how they were triggered.
The test was designed and carried out by specialists from around the world including, Seren (leader in customer experience and service design), Neurosense (leader in implicit methodologies), and NeuroStrata (consultants in blending neuromarketing applications).
They used software specially designed to slow down the speed of the network on mobile devices which they then compared to standard wireless connection. The techniques used in the study provoked responses and emotional engagement at a non-conscious level.
The study chose four sites of major brands in the U.K.: John Lewis, Tesco, EasyJet and Ryanair. Some of the findings in the study include:
- Higher levels of frustration and lower levels of emotional engagement is to be expected with slower speeds
- The negative impression deeply impacts the long-term brand perception of the retailer, making potential customers less likely to return
- Slow performance affected non-performance issues such as quality of content, visual design, and ease of navigation
- The brand damage inflicted by slow sites and poor user experience can translate directly to negative impact on purchase intent across other channels and touch points
"Our study proves that brand perception is based on more than a powerful logo or smart marketing strategy. A consumer's online shopping experience greatly affects their feelings about a retailer, and because these feeling are happening at a non-conscious, pre-cognitive level, they are beyond the control of site owners. A slow site and poor user interface can be detrimental - potentially negating other, more expensive, branding efforts," said Tammy Everts, web performance evangelist, Radware.
This study validates the conclusion most of us have come to regarding this very issue when we are on a site that is unresponsive. The hope is retailers who have a mobile presence will read the study by Radware and make the necessary changes to ensure the issue is resolved, fast!