Why Retailers Should Care about Net Neutrality: The Impact of Website Performance on Online Retail
15 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2018
Date Written: October 3, 2018
The share of e-commerce sales is rapidly increasing and so are the associated losses generated by website outages and slow websites. We leverage novel retail and website performance data to investigate the impact of website performance on online sales. This question is especially relevant in the current regulatory environment, given the ongoing policy debates around net-neutrality. Using two different research designs --- panel data with fixed effects and generalized synthetic control with elastic net --- we estimate sizable adverse effects of website speed slowdowns on online sales, especially in the mobile channel. Our results show that decreases in website performance make customers less likely to place an order and undermine retailers' quest to turn website traffic into sales. The findings have important implications for the net neutrality debate and retailers' website design decisions, specifically the selection of third-party content providers and the customized design of mobile and desktop channels.
Keywords: online retail, service operations, quasi-experiments, website performance, abandonment, synthetic control
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