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Study: International websites seven times slower than Chinese consumers expect

China’s $376.2 billion USD e-commerce market may be the biggest in the world, but gaining a foothold there is one of international digital marketing’s biggest challenges. The hurdles – digital or otherwise – often mean that international brands are left on the outside looking in.

The latest study published by our client CDNetworks, a content delivery network provider, reveals that server location and China’s firewall, often called the Great Firewall, can have a significant impact on the user experience of your site for Chinese consumers. No wonder given that the average load time is 33 seconds.

CDNetworks looked to Oban International to assist with the consumer element of their detailed research. Working with our local in-market experts (LIMEs) in China, Oban asked Chinese consumers how fast they would expect sites to load, and how long they would be willing to wait until they started looking for an alternative. The responses make stark reading for companies:

  • 4.82 seconds: how long the average Chinese consumer thinks a page load should take
  • 23.92 seconds: how long it would take the average Chinese consumer to give up on an international brand page before looking elsewhere

Although the Chinese audience’s answers reflected an expectation that they would have to wait much longer for foreign sites to load, their answers mean that many websites aren’t up to scratch. A speed test of nearly 2,000 European websites found that only those in Germany were under the threshold for Chinese users simply giving up.

Websites in the UK, France, Italy and Denmark are around seven times slower than what users expect and will typically finish loading about 10 seconds after the user has already given up.

Impact on brand reputation, longevity and revenues

This poor performance is having a damaging effect on brand reputation, leading to concerns over security and brand longevity. It is also impacting revenues, with users immediately seeking alternative websites to make purchases.

CDNetwork’s MD in EMEA, Alex Nam, explains: “Many of the issues European brands face can be attributed to China’s ‘Golden Shield’ and ‘Great Firewall’ as it is otherwise known. Its tendency to impact web searches, block content and occasionally make domains inaccessible, can cause unacceptably slow load times. Unless these challenges are anticipated and mitigated, they can have hugely damaging consequences.”

Tips for success

Work with a global cloud-based network: this improves the performance of websites and applications across an array of devices, ensuring they are accessible and load quickly.

Look for a network with a local presence in China: make sure you have information on the correct licenses, the compliance regulations in the region, and ensure the successful delivery of web content to users.

Taking your business cross border? Read our post on International Domain Strategy for more tips including Baidu indexing and keyword research or contact us for more advice.