The average luxury site takes 16.2s to load in urban China. Here’s why this should matter to you.

One of the biggest differences between Chinese consumers and the rest of us is this: they’re spending, and we’re not. In 2009, when the global recession was at an all-time low, China was one of the few places where spending actually increased. The sale of luxury goods alone grew by 16%.

Infographic: Chinese consumers are going online in unprecedented numbers

What’s more, people in China are going online at a faster rate every year. This — coupled with the knowledge that international luxury brands are hot-ticket items in mainland China — made it clear to us at Strangeloop that if we wanted to get some understanding of what kind of user experience Chinese consumers are getting from western sites, it would be useful to start by looking at the web performance of leading luxury brands.

The results are available in a report we’ve just released: Why Luxury Websites Are Disappointing Chinese Consumers (And Why This Matters to You).

What we found: Sites are way too slow

Among other things, we found that only 36% of sites offered a Chinese-language version, and only 3 out of 10 had a China-specific URL. But our main finding was that the average site took 16.2 seconds to load, with some taking much longer — up to 58 seconds.

Infographic: Luxury brand website performance

What makes this finding even more compelling is how it bangs up against a recent stat from Gomez, which found that internet users in China are some of the most demanding in the world: 75% say that they will abandon a mobile site after waiting just 3 seconds for it to load.

But at the same time, up to 60% of online shoppers in China reportedly still use Internet Explorer 6, which basically sucks. So there’s a huge gap between user expectations and the capabilities of the platform they’re browsing on. This gap presents a formidable challenge for site owners.

Infographic: Web browser usage in China

We also learned this: Your CDN won’t necessarily solve your problems

Much like the Alexa retail report we released last year, we found that CDN use didn’t correlate to page speed. Only 29% of the sites we tested used a content delivery network. You might think this explains why sites performed so badly overall, until you look at the five fastest sites. They all loaded in 3 seconds or less, and none of them used a CDN.

Why does the performance of luxury sites matter to all site owners?

By 2015, there will be 520 million online shoppers in China, compared to just 200 million in the U.S. There are huge opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves early by appealing to Chinese consumers. Site owners who get in early, deliver a premium online experience, and grab this market as it’s just beginning to explode, are in an excellent position to emerge as leaders.

Infographic: Growth of the Chinese ecommerce user base

(If you like the infographics in this post, you can go here to see a high-res version of the complete set of graphics we created to accompany the report.)

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