Zero Patience Defines New Customer Paradigm

by Jeff Wiener on May 27, 2014

Although rapid online service, instant on-demand content, and real time social networking has revolutionized the way businesses interact and connect with customers, it has changed the customer paradigm as well; this ethos of instant everything and rapid response time having developed a new breed of consumer, one with zero patience.

In fact, according to Harry Shum, Microsoft’s leader in the development of the Bing search engine, customers are less likely to return to a website that is even 250 milliseconds slower than a competing one, meaning if your website doesn’t load in the blink of an eye, your customers will be gone just as fast.

This zero patience phenomenon is exacerbated by the fact that customer expectations are changing faster than companies (and sometimes technology) can keep up. As CRM Buyer writer Manav Mital notes, “With alarming rapidity, customers’ expectations for Web experiences grow more and more demanding. To deal properly with the zero patience phenomenon, site publishers will need a whole new set of tools.”

Now that’s not to say that the one’s website needs to load in 250 milliseconds, as even the best of modern Internet connectivity can’t deliver that (yet), but instead, as Google scientists and other leading Web experts explain, with zero patience driving customers’ expectations upwards and website loading times downwards a successful business needs to reduce its website load time to under two seconds, that or watch customers disappear just as quickly.

The simply fact is that if your competitors are able to deliver just slightly faster online content, again something as small as 250 milliseconds faster, customers will leave your site and likely never return. Further, as a Google study notes, anything over one second is significant enough to disrupt a “user’s flow,” that is, any loading time over one second is noticeable, and customers don’t want to notice that they’re waiting for anything.

What’s truly strange in all this, however, is that even in this new age of zero patience website load times are not speeding up, they’re actually slowing down. The median time to interaction—that is the amount of time a user had to wait before being able to click on something—was 9.3 seconds during the winter of 2013, based on testing results from 500 retail sites. That turned out to be a significant increase on the median load time of 7.7 seconds during the same period a year earlier.

Now one doesn’t have to look to far to see why webpages are loading slower, as on average websites have grown 31 percent in size, meaning they have not only more content, but also more complex content, to display.

As it stands, though, the unfortunate thing for businesses is that the current set of optimization tools simply aren’t enough to satisfy the growing demands of this zero patience consumer base, as these tools aren’t equipped to meet the needs of our growing mobile instant everything existence.

As Mital writes, “To date, many companies in the retail segment have delivered highly variable and often poor performance that puts them at risk of losing customers. To deal properly with the zero patience phenomenon, site publishers will need a whole new set of tools to speed up their websites and deliver premium, immersive experiences. These tools will need to handle dynamic, personalized, client-centric Web applications without forcing numerous returns to the origin server to retrieve data, a long journey that impedes performance.”

But one ironclad truth of business has always been, if customers clamour for something it won’t be long before businesses deliver it, and with zero patience quickly becoming the norm in the online world it won’t be long before tools are developed to speed up web applications and services in ways we have never dreamed of.

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