How One Second Could Cost Amazon $1.6 Billion In Sales

Research on U.S. Net habits suggests that if this sentence takes longer than a second to load, many citizens will have clicked elsewhere already. If you've got the patience (or are European) read on for more shocking data on not dawdling.


The data comes from an infographic compiled by, with the specific goal of finding out about tolerance of slow webpage speeds for the average U.S. web user. Then they extended the data to cover other habits that take time, like waiting in line or being served in a restaurant. It turns out that Americans are an astonishingly impatient lot. In fact, odds are they've probably all given up reading this by now. Holla, rest of the world!

Some of the statistics revealed by the study are mind-boggling in their demonstration of impatience. For example, one in four people abandons surfing to a website if its page takes longer than four seconds to load. That's just four "Mississippis," guys. Four in 10 Americans give up accessing a mobile shopping site that won't load in just three seconds (which is roughly the time taken to read to the period at the end of this sentence). Crazy, given that shopping sites tend to have to be image-centric, and thus may take longer to load.

The greater majority of Americans also won't wait in line (unless they have to, we're guessing, in places like the DMV) for more than 15 minutes. Fifty percent wouldn't go back again to an establishment that kept them waiting for something. So you'd better serve them swiftly the first time if you want their repeat commerce, no matter what Groupon deal you can cook up.

Surprising as all this may be, the implications of this impatience are even more shocking. Amazon's calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Google has calculated that by slowing its search results by just four tenths of a second they could lose 8 million searches per day—meaning they'd serve up many millions fewer online adverts.

Read the full infographic at the link here. And then realize that this may explain why Google is desperately trying, it says, to speed up search results with tweaks like Instant (and the new semantic search). It's also a blessing that tablet computers and smartphones get faster and faster every year (even more important when you learn 25% of Americans only surf the web on mobile devices!). It'll mean that tweaks like the better Fast Fourier Transform are still more important, as they're set to revolutionize the speed of computing. And thank heavens for LTE, that's all we can say.

But then we have to wonder. If Americans get used to today's speedier Internets, phones, and web technology, will they quickly demand still speedier computers and web designs? Will tomorrow's Amazon homepage have to travel back in time from when it's rendered in order to pre-arrive in a U.S. web citizen's eyeballs at just the right moment? Did we just blow your mind? That was fast.

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

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  • James Sivis

    From the business side, this also speaks to why companies really need to continually monitor and alert on their performance metrics. Robert Treat of OmniTI had a good article in Retail Internet News on this over the holidays

    For businesses with vital web properties, they need to be able to see trends developing in their web performance metrics, and this would help them avoid issues. Then, even when an event like an outage does occur, they can do the needed root-cause analysis to get the site back up quickly, plus keep the event from reoccurring. Since there can be many operational reasons for slow page load times (servers, databases, applications, etc.) such information and analysis is crucial. There's a new generation of tools like Circonus that focus exclusively on performance monitoring that are worth checking out if you're on the business or operations side of things.

  • Jeff Walther

    I think there are two distinct things at work causing the aversion to long lines and the impatience with slow loading web pages.

    For the former, folks in the USA are more time strapped than they have ever been in the past century.  We get less time off work than any other industrialized nation.   We have no safety net.  Folks are working extra hours to make ends meet, or forced to work extra hours with no compensation.

    Few people have time to spare for standing in long lines.  We barely have time to get dinner on the table.   It's not because we're somehow less patient than Europeans.  It's because our politics has lead to a system which leaves us with little free time in our lives.  Avoiding time wasting lines is a rational decision with respect to a scarce resource -- time.

    Avoiding slow loading web pages is also a rational decision.  Experience shows that most slow loading pages load slowly, because they're loading a bunch of flash and/or javascript which adds nothing to the useful information, but does cause slowness and inconvenience and also is indicative of a poorly designed, and likely malfunctioning web page.

    If a page is shouting out that it is a piece of garbage ahead of time, why wait for it to load?

  • Tom Murdoch

    The other story here, I believe, is 'options'.  It's not that I won't wait for the right information, or product, or service; it's that I have way too many options to access that information elsewhere. True, we are more impatient or focused on instant gratification, but we are also accustomed to finding 'it' elsewhere. The benchmark is more precise, but doesn't this boil down to "if you can't serve, someone else will"?

  • Mark Simchock

     I think there's a bit of a chicken vs egg scenario here. Are people not willing to wait X amount of time for a page to load? Or is that, given a wait time of X it has historically been not worth waiting for? I think the context of the latter is worth considering.

    Is page load speed important? Of course. Are we getting more and more impatient? Yes, I suppose you can call it that. But regardless of what you call it, the fact is, people's expectations are developed in the context of their experiences. If the last 10 pages that took X time to load sucked then I'm not going to wait around for the 11th. If the last 10 pages that looked like your page sucked then I'm not going to waste time reading yours if the first impression - blink! - has be thinking otherwise.

  • Mark K Simpson

    Maybe they should move their file servers to Chattanooga! Hard to beat the speed offered by the "Gig City' - the fastest internet speed in America. They have already opened up a distribution center here and are taking advantage of our fiber-optic speed to enable their shipping operation.

  • Brian Campbell

    Correction:  You say, " Google has calculated that by slowing its search results by just 1/4 of a second they could lose 8 million searches per day...."  The link says "4 tenths of a second"  That might not sound like much, but the real value is 60% higher than you reported.  

    It is still true, that a small delay in results means loosing big bucks.

  • Brian Campbell

    "losing" not "loosing"...  I'll do the math, you do the editing.  :p