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Study: E-tailers faster, but some have a ways to go

E-commerce sites were better at crowd control this holiday season than in the past, but swarms of shoppers still stalled or crashed many sites, according to new numbers.

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Online shopping spikes after holidays
Sean Kaldor, VP e-commerce, NetRatings
E-commerce sites were better at crowd control this holiday season than in the past, but swarms of shoppers still stalled or crashed many sites, according to numbers released Wednesday.

Compared with last year during the same period, e-tailers' sites were between 10 percent and 66 percent faster during the season's busiest week, according to San Mateo, Calif.-based Keynote Systems, a company that measures Web site performance.

It is vital for online merchants to be able to move customers around their Web stores. Long delays while shopping for a gift online can motivate consumers to brave the malls.

In past years, loads of holiday shoppers brought many Web sites to their knees, but customers were patient with the burgeoning technology, analysts said. This year, however, analysts predicted consumers would lose patience with clunky Web sites. Unless merchants mustered a painless shopping experience, they risked losing customers for good.

In the past year, a host of Net merchants invested in new servers and other technology that they hoped would bolster their sites. According to Keynote, those that were most successful at keeping their Net stores running smoothly were FedEx.com, VictoriasSecret.com and Buy.com.

They were among the leaders in "Web page download performance," the speed it takes to download a page in optimum conditions. Since Nov. 12, when the holiday shopping season began, those sites took on average less than 2 seconds to download.

Some of the stores that Keynote found had experienced slowdowns or outages were BlueLight.com, BestBuy.com and Walmart.com.