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Why Online Retailers Just Can’t Do Without Mobile Optimized Sites

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Mobile devices and tablets drove 30% of internet traffic and 15% of online orders in 2013. Of these, 4% of orders were placed from mobile phones, while 11% came from tablets.

You could say that these are not very influential figures or that they aren’t a conclusive argument for having mobile-optimized sites ten years ago, but a lot has changed since then.

Did you know there are over 270 million US consumers with a smartphone and 79% made an online purchase during the last six months according to OuterBox.

Looking at some of the figures released by Branding Brand Mobile Commerce Index for March 2014, the data suggested that we were heading for a mobile-first online world where mobile devices would eventually rule in a way desktops could not.

  • Smartphone + Tablet visits to e-commerce/online retail sites were 47.8% of the total visits.
  • The market share of smartphone visits to e-commerce sites increased by 42.7% between March 2013 and 2014.
  • The market share of tablet visits to e-commerce sites increased by 39.4% between March 2013 and 2014.
  • Smartphone orders increased 75.7% between March 2013 and 2014; tablet orders increased 29.3% in the same period.
  • Revenue generated from smartphone orders increased 94.3% between March 2013 and 2014; revenue from tablet orders increased 23.6% in the same period.

Today if your website is not mobile-first, it will be penalized by Google, which “primarily uses the mobile version of a webpage for ranking and indexing,” says Search Engine Journal. To ignore Google’s requirements is to say goodbye to most of your potential site visitors. There are 99,000 searches per second. If you’re running a business that doesn’t have a mobile-optimized site yet, you’re missing a trick to increase your sales figures.

So you have a mobile-optimized site…

You might ask, “But hey, I’ve got a mobile-friendly site; isn’t that good enough?” That’s a good question, but the real question is, “Is my website delivering a satisfying mobile experience?” This experience is what differentiates a site that is mobile friendly from one that is mobile optimized. According to The Search Agency Report, 57% of smartphone users choose not to recommend a website with a poorly designed mobile website. Extrapolate this figure to include customers you lose in the buying process, and you get a bust big enough to tell you that your site must offer the best mobile user experience possible.

In mobile parlance, this includes:

  • Simplified touch navigation that is thumb-friendly, with large touch points
  • Visual cues to simplify navigation
  • Emphasis on only the most relevant information that is concise enough to facilitate informed buying decisions
  • Content that fits all screens irrespective of the make and model of the smartphone/tablet
  • Focus on convenience and minimal use of typing to search for information
  • Displaying the shopping cart, sign-in, and search boxes above the fold
  • Quick loading time

Simply put, your mobile website must offer as interactive, engaging, and informative an experience as your desktop website.

The case for device agnosticism

Figures, facts, and analysis don’t count for much if you’ve already decided on a course of action in your mind. Suppose a web retailer has weighed the pros and cons (involving time, effort, and money) of offering a web-only presence as opposed to a web + mobile company and decided not to provide an optimized mobile experience. In that case, there is a chance that they might not have thought things through or that they haven’t had access to enough information to make that decision.

Can you afford not to be mobile?

We are living in a world where platform independence and device agnosticism rule. Your existing and potential customers are using various devices with different screen sizes. They access your desktop website from laptops or PCs at home and work and from their smartphones or tablets when they’re on the go. And they will expect the site to render effectively and offer the same browsing experience across all these devices. If they have a terrible mobile experience, they will turn to your competitor’s site. Yes, it’s that simple: either get a mobile-optimized site or lose your potential customers to your rivals.

But Shop X isn’t mobile, and they’re doing fine!

It’s a mystery, isn’t it, that with so many stats and figures pointing towards the need to have a mobile site, some online retailers still need convincing to go mobile! Add to it very few of the retailers who’re actually mobile are making their presence count.

While there can be many reasons for this, the big one that stands out is the extra cost associated with developing a mobile-optimized site and marketing it to a targeted audience.

The problem is you can’t hide from the fact that your consumers are using mobile devices as a research tool to find store locations, product information, and coupon deals. You can’t afford to have a mobile-optimized site any longer. And you also need to combine your mobile “presence” with the judicious use of retail point-of-sale tools that allow you to unite your offline and online merchandising activities. The idea is to make the cost-benefit analysis work in your favor. For this to happen, you’ll need to explore every avenue – online, offline, and mobile – at your disposal to push sales northwards.

Over the long run, as it keeps delivering incremental ROI, this won’t seem like a costly exercise anymore.

Over to you

Mobile site optimization is not only about offering a highly satisfying shopping experience but also about empowering your online presence. You must launch a multi-pronged assault to capture your customer’s mind space. It’s time online retailers realize their business doesn’t exist in pockets or vacuum. It needs to be everywhere customers are. Mobile is just one step towards that ubiquitous business identity.

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