So you’ve decided to start an Ecommerce business, but have you thought about all the devices people use to access the internet these days? I really hope you’re already thinking about mobile, but just in case you weren’t, here’s a few reasons why you should make your store more mobile-friendly, and a look at some of the alternatives ways you can do it.
Get with the movement
You probably spend most of your time working on or looking at your storefront via your desktop or laptop computer, but if you think your customers are only seeing your site from that vantage point, you’re kidding yourself.
Smartphones and tablets are a very recent phenomenon, but there’s no doubt that they’re a very significant part of our lifestyles now, and are here to stay.
Some in the industry refer to mobile shopping as m-commerce, but let’s face it, it’s still e-commerce. According to a recent eMarketer report, 15% of online retail sales will take place via mobile devices in 2013, an increase of 4% from last year, and that is expected to rise by a further 10% by 2017.
Of course there are differences between how customers use smartphones, tablets and PCs. Recent research by Adobe found that “When shopping online, consumers use tablets like a PC to compare products and make the purchase”. It also found that conversion rates on tablets are three times greater than on smartphones but still don’t match conversion rates of those using PCs.
Smartphones tend to be used however, “for quick references like price checks and finding store locations.” A Google report agrees, adding that 8 out of 10 ‘smartphone shoppers’ use their phones whilst inside a physical store to compare prices online and look for other information.
Be there when they are
The really good news is that people carry mobile devices with them everywhere, especially smartphones. This means that the chances of them making an impulse purchase online are greatly increased.
One of the main uses for smartphones or tablets is undoubtedly social media, so by following our tips on how to promote your business on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, you’’ll have a better chance of your store being found by mobile users.
You may also want to think about other options for reaching mobile customers, such as competitions, PR campaigns and special offers.
Photos and videos are hugely popular on mobile devices so you may wish to focus on Instagram and Vine, both by creating your own accounts and content and engaging with influencers who use them. Instagram is mostly used for photos, but they’ve recently added the ability to post videos up to 15 seconds long, and these can be uploaded from your camera roll, so why not create something amazing and share it?
Alternatively Vine is also a hugely popular video sharing app, however there are more limitations – videos have to be 6 seconds long and you can’t upload from your camera roll.
What happens when they click?
That will all help drive traffic, but is your site optimized for viewing on those devices once those curious potential customers press their finger onto the touchscreens to activate a link and actually arrive at your store ?
There are three main ways to provide a good mobile experience for customers, and we’ll take a look at each of these in turn.
If you’re planning on having a completely unique, bespoke design for your ecommerce store, make sure the design team you hire are well-versed in creating responsive websites.
This means your site will be automatically resized depending on which device it’s used on, so if viewed on a smartphone the content will automatically organize itself into a narrower, column-based view, whilst on a tablet the differences will be less noticeable from the PC view.
Mobile themes/web apps
If responsive design isn’t possible due to financial or technological constraints, the next best thing can be to install a mobile theme on your site.
Again, these will automatically detect what type of device your customers are using, meaning they will see your full theme when using a desktop or laptop computer but a mobile theme on smartphones, making your site easier to use.
These don’t tend to work so well on tablets though, where the mobile view is too simplistic for the amount of screen space. You’ll probably find that customers prefer the full site view when browsing on iPads and other tablets, as they can always tap the screen to zoom into the area of the site they are interested in.
You might think that your store needs its own native app that users can download to their phones or tablets from the app store of whatever platform they use. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are undoubtedly the two biggest platforms across both smartphones and tablets, with a small percentage using a Blackberry device or Windows Phone from Microsoft.
Certainly, there are plenty of companies out there offering native apps for businesses and with plenty of persuasive arguments as to why you need one. Native apps do allow a more direct relationship with consumers, as you can send updates as notifications on their phones and therefore bypass email inboxes or social media streams.
However for a customer to download a dedicated app, they will have to be highly engaged with your brand, and most new ecommerce businesses won’t have such a devoted fanbase. Also, research suggests that 87 per cent of connected consumers prefer web to apps.
Apps are also expensive, both to develop across multiple platforms and to maintain over time. But perhaps the biggest downside of native apps are the fact that businesses have to pay out a percentage of all revenue earned to the platform owner. In the case of Apple and Google, this is 30%. Sure, you can have an app that refers users to your online store, but that kind of defeats the purpose.
It’s clear that e-commerce via mobile devices is here to stay, and a rapidly growing aspect of the bigger ecommerce picture. Any ecommerce business owner must be mobile-ready in order to serve their customers across all platforms – if not, ecommerce entrepreneurs risk losing out on a significant number of sales today and in the future.
When it comes to having a mobile presence, it seems however that rushing into creating a bespoke native app isn’t the best policy. Instead, optimizing your website for mobile, whether by using responsive design or directing users to a mobile theme or web app means that you can focus on creating the best experience possible for all platforms without expensive redevelopment and maintenance costs.
Mobile customers value convenience and choice. If you can give them a great experience no matter what platform, device or screen-size they’re using, then they’ll come to trust and value your brand, and most importantly, buy from you today and in the future.
I’m curious – what are your experiences when shopping online using a mobile device, whether it’s a tablet or smartphone? Or have you seen great results for your ecommerce business by using a specific mobile strategy? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.