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Not-so-fast fashion: Slow websites costing fashion industry over £1bn per year

March 19, 2021 / Reading Time: 4 minutes /
Kumari Tilakawardane
Content & Digital PR Executive

Recent research by our team has revealed that leading fashion brands are missing out on potentially as much as £340m in revenue – earnings that could be secured by maximising mobile performance and putting a greater focus on site speed.

We looked at a number of fashion retailers, including Boden, IntheStyle, and Missguided, from a digital perspective, and found that despite a growing trend towards online shopping, there are a number of ways these brands are actually missing out on traffic, conversions, and sales in a big way. Based on our research, we’ve estimated that the 10 brands we’ve analysed are collectively missing out on more than a billion pounds in potential earnings. 

In eCommerce, conversion rate is king. Getting the highest ratio of sales (and basket value) per visit is the goal of any retail website, and so attracting the right audience is crucial. Retailers know this – that’s why they spend time curating a social media following, targeting certain demographics with ad campaigns, and tailoring their brand to appeal to those who’ll buy their products.

What many brands and retailers might be underestimating, however, is that website speed and performance has a huge direct impact on revenue and profit. The ROI potential with a completely optimised website for online fashion retailers is massive. Our research shows that a number of the UK’s most successful and recognisable clothing brands have gaps in their web optimisation that are actually leaking millions of pounds each year. 

Fashion’s latest trend

The fashion industry has been impacted significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic. Physical stores have been closed for a huge portion of the last 12 months, and the effect of lockdown meant retail habits shifted significantly. According to lovethesales, during the height of lockdown in November 2020, sales of loungewear increased 122% YoY, with hoodies and joggers also growing by 164% and 118% respectively. 

Naturally, shoppers have been turning to online retail with increasing frequency since the pandemic began. ONS data shows that in January 2021, online sales accounted for more than 36% of all sales in the UK, compared to just 20.2% a year prior. With retailers who previously relied on high street footfall forced online to compete with traditionally digital brands, the face of fashion eCommerce has changed.

A need for speed

Shopping online is all about convenience. Browse your favourite stores, treat yourself to a well-earned splurge or stock up on essentials – all without leaving the comfort of your sofa. But convenience has to be just that – if the web experience is slow, cumbersome or rife with errors, it’s no longer convenient. Customer satisfaction plummets the longer a site takes to load – Loadstorm reports that just a 1-second delay means 7% fewer conversions, and 46% of users won’t return to a site that’s performing poorly. 

As well as impacting on customer experience, site performance is set to have an even greater impact on SERP rankings too, with Google’s new Page Experience Update set to launch in May. The algorithm update will mean sites need an even stricter focus on SEO best practices as well as site optimisation in order to remain visible to the most potential shoppers. Site speed can sometimes fall through the cracks of web and SEO teams’ areas of responsibility, but as our data shows it’s vitally important for eCommerce.

Using Google’s Test My Site platform, we examined a selection of top UK fashion retailers’ websites and found billions of pounds of lost potential revenue. 

As our research shows, increasing site speed by just 0.1 seconds can lead to additional earnings of hundreds of thousands – and potentially millions – of pounds. Google and Deloitte’s findings show that the 0.1s increase can grow conversion rates by as much as 8% – as of January 2021 the fashion industry’s online conversion rate was 1.75% and the average order value £74.42, so site increases would clearly make a significant difference to sales figures.  

For example, though it pulls in over a million visitors per month, luxury fashion retail site is still potentially losing out on millions of pounds in revenue thanks to cumbersome load times. Even optimising by just 0.1 seconds would increase potential earnings by £1.3m – we found that with further optimisation the retailer could actually unlock a staggering £341,645,314 over the course of 2021. 

Another example is, which receives 1,389,783 visitors per month and currently has an ‘average’ site speed of 2.8 seconds. Shaving just 0.1 seconds off would lead to a potential earnings increase of £1,737,584.50 this year. That’s by no means an insignificant amount, but it’s still a fraction of the extra revenue generated by fully optimising the site, which could mean Missguided would make almost £166m more than with the current site. 

By implementing the improvements our team identified and ramping up average load speed for their websites, these retailers would grow conversion rate and revenue in 2021 by huge amounts. It also can’t be overstated how important it is to remember how an audience will view the site – at a minimum, over half of web traffic will come from mobile. According to Google/Ipsos, 77% of mobile users are more likely to complete purchases from sites that actually allow them to purchase quickly. So, basically, time is money.

Data sources


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