eCommerce platform performance is strongly correlated to sales and revenue. As page-load times increase, sales decrease. As page-load times get quicker, sales increase. And it’s not just sales: many eCommerce performance indicators are correlated with performance, including average order size, time on site, search ranking, and customer loyalty. Customers who aren’t happy with an eCommerce store’s performance are less likely to buy from it in the future. Decreasing page-load times by a second has been shown to increase sales by 7%.
Out-of-the-box, WooCommerce is no slouch, but faster is better and there is a lot a WooCommerce store owner can do to improve the WooCommerce shopping experience. WordPress performance, and WooCommerce performance in particular, is a complex topic, so in this article I’d like to cover some of the basics. What can you do today to make your WooCommerce store faster?
Hosting is probably the single most important factor in WooCommerce performance. You can build a slow store on fast hosting, but you can’t build a fast store on slow hosting. Here are just two of the ways hosting impacts performance:
- Resources. WooCommerce is greedy for RAM and processor time. If your hosting doesn’t have sufficient resources, your store will be slow under load. This is especially problematic if you use shared hosting from a provider that oversells hosting accounts.
- Network. Network performance can differ considerably between hosting providers. Slow network connections from servers to switches within data centers make for unresponsive sites. Low-bandwidth connections to backbone providers that connect a store to the internet are often plagued by contention and latency issues.
If your hosting provider can’t or won’t provide the foundation your store needs to perform, consider moving to a better WooCommerce hosting provider — migration isn’t as complex as you think.
Be careful with caching
Caching plugins like WP Total Cache and WP Rocket are often used to improve WordPress performance, but things are a bit different for WooCommerce. Most WordPress sites are largely static: the same content can safely be sent to different users. eCommerce sites are by nature dynamic: you should not cache the cart, account pages, or checkout.
That said, caching product pages and some other parts of a WooCommerce store can have significant performance benefits if the plugin is configured properly, as explained in the WooCommerce documentation.
Glossy high-definition images contribute to sales, but they are often the largest asset on a page. I have seen eCommerce stores that download many megabytes of image files; they looked incredible, but some shoppers aren’t prepared to wait for pretty pictures to load.
WordPress will do a good job of sending the right-sized images, but you can further reduce image size with a set of optimizations that compress image data and strip out unnecessary metadata. Images can be optimized with an external tool like Kraken.io or with a WordPress plugin like Smush Image Compression and Optimization.
Performance test plugins and themes
It is not strictly true that installing lots of WordPress plugins and WooCommerce extensions causes performance problems. It depends on the plugins, the code they execute, the resources they load, and the database queries they make.
To be sure a plugin doesn’t cause performance problems, run performance tests with and without the plugin installed. You will have to decide whether any performance impact is a price worth paying for the functionality provided by the plugin.
Use a content delivery network
eCommerce stores with lots of images and other static assets can benefit from a significant performance bump by using a content distribution network. A CDN serves a WooCommerce store’s static assets from servers distributed around the world. Assets are served from the customer’s nearest CDN node, reducing latency and the amount of work a WooCommerce server has to do.
We have covered some basic WooCommerce performance optimizations in this article, but it is possible to go a lot further if you have the technical knowledge. The best managed WooCommerce hosting providers offer more complex performance optimizations, including database optimizations, dynamic resource allocation, custom performance testing, and more built-in to their hosting accounts.
About the Author: Lindsey Miller is the Partner Manager for Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting. She’s been involved in various aspects in the WordPress community for over 7 years and helped start a non-profit teaching kids to code, The Div.