Being responsive to mobile commerce is not enough…

Mobile traffic now dominates for the majority of retailers – as evidenced by companies such as John Lewis who reported in January of this year that upwards of 70% of their online Christmas visitors arrived via a mobile device. So why do a vast number of retailers not see mobile commerce as a priority? Yes, mobile conversion rates are low compared to desktop – but that misses the point. If the vast majority of customers’ first interaction with a brand is via mobile, then a retailer must create the best possible mobile experience – or risk losing business, for good.

Yet those mid-market retailers who have opted for a quick fix responsive design approach are experiencing bounce rates leaping often to over 70%. Sites deliver incredibly slow page loads combined with complex navigation processes, which are the antithesis of an experience which follows mobile commerce best practice.

While web developers have virtually unanimously embraced responsive for all mobile related development, the reality is that while this model works well for representing content in a mobile form factor, it has some serious flaws when it comes to a successful mCommerce experience.

The issue is not simply resizing content; responsive design generally demands the entire desktop site content has to be processed on the smartphone, including images and complex web technologies such as JavaScript. However powerful the latest generation of smartphones and data networks, this is simply too much to ask. No wonder a home page can take upwards of ten seconds to load. And, with independent research studies asserting that customers will accept no longer than three seconds to load a page, and organisations like Amazon saying that any drop in page load speed has a huge impact on conversion rates, it is no surprise that bounce rates go through the roof.

In fact the problems go far beyond slow page loading. The mobile customer’s journey from browse to checkout is fundamentally different to the desktop customer journey. The mobile shopping experience is often more about task driven "shopping with intent" than a long, engaged brand experience; it is about a short, sharp, efficient browse to purchase experience – and the mobile site should reflect that difference through every aspect of the navigation right through to a simplified check-out process.

Of course, it is tough to assess just how investment should be allocated to the mobile site. CEOs are also justifiably concerned about the impact on sales of diverting resources from the established desktop environment. So don’t. Keep the established web development team focused on its core skill set and leverage a proven Software as a Service (SaaS) mCommerce model to deliver a highly tailored mobile experience.

The perception that mobile is not a valid sales channel is clearly flawed: leading retailers are not just investing in mobile – they are prioritising mobile over desktop for a reason. These ‘mCommerce first’ strategies are transforming the customer experience and reinforcing brand values. Critically, they are measurably driving up revenues. Whilst mobile conversions are unlikely to reach the same level as desktop, simply due to the nature of mobile usage, dedicated mobile sites are fundamentally outperforming the rest of the market, with higher basket values and greater overall revenue.

The reality is that more customers now come to a retail business through mobile than any other channel; mobile is the primary touch point and a bad mobile experience will have cause long term damage to brand perception – no customer will even try out the desktop site if the first mobile experience is poor. Those 40% of retailers not considering mobile right now might just need to think again – and do more than a quick fix responsive site. A mCommerce first approach is now a necessity.

Jim Rudall is Sales Director at MoPowered

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