What are the options for mobile enabling my website?
If you are thinking of expanding your online sales channels beyond a desktop website, then you need to be thinking about mobile enabling your website. Before you do so its worth asking some questions: Is the cost of a mobile website justifiable? And if yes then what are the options?
The Monetate Q1 2013 Ecommerce Quarterly gives insight on smartphone vs. tablet vs. desktop share of audience for large eCommerce brands. From the graph below you can see that tablet and smartphone use nearly doubled in a year based on 500 million visits for these retail clients. Mobile share is now around 25% on average.
With the rapid expansion of mobile web browsing and mobile shopping, it is becoming critical for retailers to provide an easy to use mobile shopping experience for their customers.
The fastest way to work out your mobile traffic demand is to look at your web analytics. Analytics tools such as Google Analytics allow you to see what proportion of your traffic comes from mobile phones. You can even see which device or operating systems the traffic comes from. If a significant amount of traffic is coming from mobile phones then you are potentially loosing sales due to the fact that your website is not optimised for mobile and hence not convenient for completing a purchase.
Mobile enabling your e-commerce business can be done in different ways:
1. Mobile website: A mobile website is the mobile version of your desktop site. Typically the way it works is the mobile website is a subdomain of your desktop site. When users accesses your website from a smartphone, they are automatically re-directed to the mobile website address, for example, m.yourdomain.com. If you type the website address of most of the large retailers such as Tesco or John Lewis, you will see that you are automatically redirected to the mobile version of the site which is easy to view and use in a smartphone.
2. Responsive design: if you are a small company and want to mobile enable your eCommerce website, this is probably the fastest and most cost effective way. Responsive design is relatively new and with advances in HTMLS and CSS technologies it is becoming increasingly popular. Responsive design means that your desktop site will adopt itself to different screen resolutions, which will make it easy to use on a small smartphone display. This means that unlike mobile website which has its own subdomain, a responsive website will have the same domain name as your website. The disadvantage of a responsive website is that since it is not specifically designed for mobile, the user interface is typically not as optimised for mobile as a mobile website.
3. Mobile apps: Retailers use mobile apps primarily for two different functions: brand promotion or selling of products. Benadryl for example has a free app that gives pollen forecast, which is good for brand awareness. The Benadryl app also has a buy now link which takes the user to a selection of affiliated shopping websites. Tesco on the other hand has an Android and iPhone app for grocery shopping. A mobile app can take full advantage of the native features of the smartphone and hence provide the best user experience. A mobile app however will be the most costly solution in terms of development costs and the fact that you will need both an iPhone and an Android app to cover most smartphones.
In next months article I will explain in more detail the pros and cons between responsive design and mobile websites.