Optimizing Mobile Website Design for Multichannel Retailers

Omnichannel Commerce

It may have seemed five years ago that the iPhone was a novelty item for tech-savvy millennials and affluent people. Now, millions of consumers have made the transition from simplistic feature phones to robust mobile devices, and electronics companies from Apple to Samsung are selling millions of these devices annually to people across the globe.

In the United States, mobile devices continues to rise. The most recent data from comScore found that more than 156 million individuals now own the devices, which accounts for 65.2 percent of total adult mobile subscribers. It’s quite clear that these high-powered handhelds are no longer just a novelty but a core piece of technology in the everyday lives of Americans.

The rise of the mobile-only shopper
The proliferation of smartphones has given birth to a new type of customer: a mobile-exclusive shopper.

For multichannel retailers, optimizing for mobile shoppers – be it a mobile website design, responsive design, and possibly a mobile app, is table stakes today.

Although still in the minority, these individuals only use mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to shop with online merchants. Internet Retailer reported that approximately one-third of online visitors go to the sites and apps of the top 10 retailers belong to this mobile-only category

Considering the sheer number of people who use their phones and tablets as primary retail and shopping tools, having a mobile website is no longer an option but a necessity. If one-third of unique visitors are trying to access a merchant’s site on their phones, but the mobile website design either causes issues for the customer or has suboptimal performance, that’s a significant portion of customers whom retailers may be missing out on.

“For multichannel retailers, optimizing for mobile shoppers – be it a mobile website design or responsive design site, and possibly a mobile app, as well – is table stakes today; otherwise, retailers will not be able to convert a huge chunk of their online customers who only visit on mobile devices,” Internet Retailer added.

Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and insights at comScore, also noted that mobile is an ever-changing landscape.

And now, the majority of time consumers spend online with digital media, and as a subset, with online retail, occurs on a mobile device.

Merchants that want to stay on the cutting edge and deliver the greatest experience to smartphone and tablet shoppers will need to consider all the innovations. Mobile website design and functionality shouldn’t be stagnant, particularly in an environment where companies such as Apple release yearly iterations of their devices that have greater capabilities.

“Better mobile shopping experiences, improved mobile connectivity and faster wireless data speeds are factors that have driven this change,” Lipsman added. “You can browse just about as efficiently on a mobile device as you can on a desktop PC; you just have a smaller screen. And now, the majority of time consumers spend online with digital media, and as a subset, with online retail, occurs on a mobile device.”

Adjusting eCommerce operations to meet the needs of mobile customers
Studies conducted by other analysis firms have also noted the growth of mobile as a shopping platform.

As more smartphones and tablets make their way into the hands of customers, it’s natural to expect the number of mobile-only shoppers to grow.

For instance, a report released by Juniper Research last fall forecast a 50 percent growth in mobile shopper numbers over the next few years. As more smartphones and tablets make their way into the hands of customers, it’s natural to expect the number of mobile-only shoppers to grow.

The onus is on retailers to make the appropriate changes to cater to the needs of these individuals. People will demand a better mobile shopping experience, but it also needs to be tied to broader multichannel efforts. Customers shop from mobile devices because it’s convenient, so the experience shouldn’t be drastically different – this means customer profiles should be consolidated across channels, and so should promotions and pricing. It’s critical that internet retailers make the right adjustments in both front-end mobile website design and back-end eCommerce operations.

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