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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A need for speed on mobile websites

While the majority of smartphone users want to shop with their phones, only a small minority of retailers offer either mobile apps or websites. One study puts the number of mobile-friendly retailers (app or site) at 32 percent; another counts less than 5 percent of retailers with a mobile-specific site.

Retailers need to catch up in a hurry. The smartphone tipping point was officially reached in spring of this year, according to Nielsen, with 55 percent of new cell phone purchases now being smartphones. Smartphone users express a strong preference to use their phones to shop, but a majority of them find the mobile shopping experience unsatisfactory — 54 percent say mobile apps and sites are “ineffective and difficult to use.”

A Harris Interactive study found that, of adults who conducted a mobile transaction in the past year, 4 out of 5 experienced a problem. And yet 85 percent of the same survey group expects the mobile experience to be equal to or better than using a computer.

It doesn’t have to be such an unsatisfying experience for users. It’s not rocket science to create a mobile site that loads with acceptable speed and delivers the features consumers want. What it requires is a change in mindset from desktop Web thinking to mobile Web thinking. Techniques that make for a rich, and yet still high-performing, experience on the desktop can render the mobile experience painfully slow or even unusable.

The good news is that on the mobile Web, user expectations of content are likely more modest. They are typically more focused on a task — finding an address, getting a price, seeing a product, buying a single item — rather than the more leisurely browsing or immersive experience they might be looking for on a desktop or laptop. So from the start, mobile content can be pared down without compromising likely use cases, so you can already be ahead of the game simply by selectively choosing content for mobile.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Retail and an Intro to Mobile Strategy

Mobile Performance management starts with how the pages are built, which often presents a dilemma for retailers. With more and more products approaching commodity status and available at multiple online outlets, site experience becomes a key differentiator.  Retailers want to create a rich experience for visitors with interactivity, dramatic product presentation, perhaps Flash, personalization or other features to set themselves off from the competition.  But a heavy load of features and functionality can drag site performance down, often because of third-party content, and, instead of making visitors sticky, can drive them to leaner, faster competitive sites.

The successful retailers this year will have built mobile into their strategy right from the start—not just as an afterthought to the “main” site, but side-by-side with it.  Shoppers carrying smart phones are using them to check prices, locate products, find deals, look at reviews and, more and more, to make purchases. 

Many retailers were surprised at the amount of mobile traffic they got during the 2009 holiday season.  And there will be millions more smart phones in the hands of shoppers this year.

With regards to mobile website availability, the inherent slowness of cellular networks and devices, mobile sites need to be even leaner and meaner than wired Web sites.  It takes some hard decision-making and analysis of what is essential for users when they are browsing on the go and what it takes to satisfy them, including their need for speed.  Search results can be confined to return four or five results, for example, instead of the 40 or 50 that might be delivered on the wired Web.  And perhaps tracking pixels are needed only on the landing page and cart page, instead of every page on the site.