Fast Or Feature-Rich: Can You Have Both?

A pink illustration featuring the McDonald's logo.

It’s a tale as old as time: you’d like to add the latest and greatest features and functionality to your ecommerce site, but doing so can really hinder your site’s performance. Shoppers will have a bad experience — even though the entire point of adding those features in the first place was to provide the best online shopping experience possible. Enter “viscous cycle”

Cycle of Poor Site Performance

Why ecommerce sites need 3rd party technologies

Adding  features through 3rd party ecommerce technologies to your site can significantly improve shopper experience, influence the checkout process, and keep your shoppers coming back for more.

The 3rd party technologies we are referring to are features like reviews, product suggestions, virtual try-ons, social sharing, and any other 3rd party that you add to your site to offer a smoother, more enjoyable shopping experience. In fact, a  2019 Retail Systems Research (RSR) Report found that the ecommerce features that shoppers want the most are ratings, reviews, and the ability to compare products:

2019 Retail Systems Research (RSR)

Long story short, adding these 3rd parties to your ecommerce site will give your shoppers the online experience they want and need to complete their purchase.

Choosing the best 3rd parties for your brand

Now that you understand why your site needs 3rd parties, how do you know which ones to choose? The ecommerce industry is saturated with these technologies, and new options are always emerging. For example, here are some 3rd party features we have seen popping up across Shopify ecommerce

Subscription Plans

3rd party Shopify apps like Recharge and Bold allow shoppers to sign up for recurring orders like subscription boxes, meal orders or monthly club memberships. Shoppers love this checkout option, especially because it gives them the flexibility to pause, skip, or edit upcoming orders.

Gift Registry and Wishlist

3rd party Shopify app Gift Reggie is a white label gift registry and wishlist solution. Shoppers enjoy creating wishlists for all of life’s important milestones, like moving into a new home, baby showers or birthdays. Best of all, they can share their registry lists with friends and family!

Reviews and Ratings

Yotpo’s 3rd party Shopify app Photo & Product Reviews displays customer reviews and ratings at key conversion points. Customers can look at beautiful photo galleries that will increase product discovery, boost brand engagement, and create new paths to purchase.

Email Marketing

3rd party Shopify integrations like Klaviyo and Bronto help marketers send more personalized and targeted emails to grow revenue and engagement. Shoppers appreciate getting high-value ecommerce emails, and individualized coupons, that reflect their online store order history.


3rd party app Nosto empowers Shopify Plus brands to deliver dynamic shopping experiences that drive revenue using customer data, product attributes and performance metrics. Customers benefit from seamless experiences, including ratings, reviews and user-generated content.

Store Locator

3rd party plugin Bold Store Locator enables merchants to add a “Store” or “Dealer” locator section to any Shopify website. When customers enter their zip code or postal code, it locates the closest store, and gives details including hours, contact information and driving directions!

Search Functionality

3rd party integration Algolia improves Shopify Plus stores with powerful ecommerce site search that improves conversions and order value. Shoppers are rewarded with a frictionless search and navigation experience by connecting with a Shopify store’s product catalog and collections.

Try researching which 3rd parties other brands in your space are using throughout their ecommerce sites. You could also check out the 2019 3rd Party Index, which maps out all 3rd parties being used across 1,500 ecommerce sites, and breaks them down by platform (like Shopify) and performance rating.

Once you have an idea of what you’d like to use, work with an ecommerce agency like diff to really hone in on the best approach to adding 3rd parties and accelerating your brand’s growth.

The challenges that come with 3rd parties

With so many awesome 3rd party features brands can use, is there really such a thing as having “too many?”  Technically, no — but these technologies can start to cause issues:

Loss of visibility and control

Considering the average ecommerce site has between 40 – 60 3rd parties on their site, and is adding 5 more each year on average, things can start to get complicated. Especially with employee turnover and different departments adding features on their own, many brands are not even aware of all the 3rd parties that exist on their sites.

Performance issues

It's important to note that each 3rd party technology is a completely separate element. If there were to be any performance issues, crashes, or delays from any 3rd party, it could cause a significant impact on the speed, consistency, and overall performance of your entire site. In fact, 75% of ecommerce page load time can be attributed to 3rd parties. And, shoppers won’t wait around for your site to load. So, if your site is slow, there’s a good chance your 3rd parties have something to do with it.

Privacy compliance issues

Even scarier than slow site performance, if any 3rd parties on your site get hacked, or are collecting sensitive shopper data, you could be at risk of not complying with privacy laws. This could lead to hefty fines, or even worse — a data breach! There’s already enough horrible headlines in the world, let’s not add another. Especially since it is so easy to avoid.

Even with these challenges, the performance issues caused by 3rd parties are not from the number of these technologies on your site, but from the lack of visibility and control of them.

This leaves brands asking: “Can we have all the 3rd parties we want and a fast site?”

Yes, you can have the latest and greatest ecommerce site features without sacrificing site performance. Here’s how:

Harmonizing 3rd parties and site performance

In order to optimize your 3rd parties for performance, the number one thing you need is to take an inventory of how many of these technologies you actually have on your site. Once you can sit down and look at the full list, then you can work with an agency like diff to identify which of those technologies you no longer need, which you would like to replace, and which you would like to add. This way, you’ll have a clear strategy when building out your 3rd party inventory.

After establishing a solid inventory and full visibility into all the 3rd parties on your site, you need to be able to optimize and control how they load on your pages. You can use an ecommerce acceleration tool (this one’s free for a limited time!) to:

  • Make sure your 3rd parties are running smoothly, loading on the correct pages, and not having a negative effect on site performance.
  • Optimally sequence the execution of 3rd parties and other assets on your site to ensure the fastest time to shopper interaction.
  • Plus, add anomaly detection into the mix, and you’ll be alerted when any of these 3rd parties are experiencing issues, so you can remediate the problem before it hurts your site.

Don’t sacrifice site performance for 3rd party technologies

As long as you have visibility and control of your 3rd party technologies, you can add as many as you want. But to really provide the best shopper experience possible and maximize online revenue, you’ll need 3rd parties and a fast, consistent site. The good news is that you won't have to sacrifice one for the other, as long as you have the right tools and people in your corner.

This article originally appeared in the Diff Agency blog and has been published here with permission.

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