A frequently overlooked area of ecommerce and digital marketing is mobile. In recent years, the number of consumers making purchases from their mobile phones has increased – with at least 32% using their smartphones to make regular purchases. Despite this, an alarmingly small percentage of businesses have a mobile optimised site.
New era of commerce
According to The Social Media Hat, nearly half of all consumers say they won’t return to a website if it doesn’t load properly on their mobile device. And with ecommerce accounting for an increasing proportion of profit for businesses across the board, not having a mobile-optimised site means losing potential income. The trajectory of mobile consumption, browsing and purchasing looks set to continue to rise, with local mobile searches (85.9 billion in 2013) projected to exceed desktop searches (84 billion) for the first time in 2015.
An admittedly scary batch of numbers there, so, to make it easier, we enlisted the help of Chris Williams, CEO and founder of B60 Apps, a leading app development agency, and Nathan Fearon, founder of Buffalo, a mobile web design agency.
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An extension of customer service
“A mobile-optimised site is crucial for any business,” says Williams. “It can generate more traffic, boost customer engagement and give you an edge over your competition. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you’re not providing a world class service.”
Fearon agrees: “A fluid and intuitive browsing experience [is vital], as obvious as this may seem, we see so many “mobile-friendly” sites that do not have a click to call, do not have an intuitive navigation bar, home button or even the ability to go back a page. The phrase “mobile user” intimates something quite obvious – people are on the go. So if you are walking from your car to the office or navigating your way through a shopping centre, it is imperative that a site offers up relevant information such as contact details, location, opening times and, potentially, even price lists and product information. All the above should be very easy to navigate on a touch-button-based system.
“It’s really important to understand your mobile audience and think about what content you are going to serve to them and ensure they have the information they need. Some sites that are mobile friendly can still be cluttered and difficult to navigate as they are serving all the same content the desktop site does, and research shows that consumer intent to purchase rapidly diminishes when faced with sites that are taking too long to load.”
It’s a point that has been reiterated by Google’s latest algorithm update. Earlier this year, ‘mobilegeddon’ struck ensuring that mobile-optimised sites are given priority in mobile search over sites that Google deems to be “not mobile friendly”.
In the immediate aftermath of the update, media commentators voiced scepticism about how much would actually change. But it’s since emerged that the change has had a huge impact. Since April nearly 50% of non-friendly mobile sites have dropped down in Google’s rankings; furthermore, traffic to non-mobile friendly sites fell by 12%.
Making mobile work for you
A few of the common issues that prevent websites from performing well for mobile are poor design, poor user experience and trying to replicate the exact formats of a desktop experience. To avoid these issues, and make mobile work for your business, here are a few simple steps you can take to strengthen your website for mobile:
1. Google mobile-friendly test
Where Google tells you whether your site is mobile-friendly or otherwise.
2. Do your own test
With so many different models on the market, it’s up to you to make sure that your site will function well across different devices. There are plenty of online testing tools you can use that will simulate the experience of different devices so you can get an idea of what your site will look like.
3. Refine your design
The design of your site makes a huge difference to key areas such as usability and efficiency, and the best bet is to keep things simple. As a rule of thumb, white space is your best friend – the tidier the layout, the higher you’ll be in Google’s rankings. Less text will work in your favour too, as trying to use all the content that would normally feature on a desktop website on mobile slows down loading times and can lead to a convoluted browsing experience.
4. Refine your user experience
Poor navigation turns users off, so make sure you keep things simple to improve the experience of anyone visiting your site. Areas that make a difference include having a click button to call back a page and clear page identification. It’s also important to deliver relevant content to mobile users in easily accessible places – for example, opening times and contact information.
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5. Give people what they want
By speaking to clients and potential users of your site, you can identify what it is that they will need, and what a good experience will feel like for them. You can use survey tools or ask a few people to get together for a small market research testing session.
6. Learn from data
Using analytics, you be able to determine more about the experience of your users, how well different pages are performing, and what areas of your site might need improving. Aside from Google, there a variety of tools available online that can focus on visitor types, navigation flow and more – all insights that can be used to help you deliver a world class website.
7. Avoid pop-ups
Simplicity is the key in all areas of mobile browsing. Having to switch between lots of tabs and browser windows on mobile is difficult and can cause slow load times, so avoid this if you can. If you find that you will need to open a new browser window, it’s a good idea to find a way of notifying your visitors so that they can find their way back to the homepage easily – this is one example of where having a homepage button comes in useful.
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8. Avoid Flash and Java
These programmes have an impact on how well Google can read the data on your website, the harder this is, the lower your ranking will be.
Redirects can detect what device visitors are using to view your site and, if necessary, redirect them to your mobile-optimised version. But it’s important to check redirects regularly to make sure they work, as faults can also affect your mobile ranking. The best way to do this is by using redirect plugins on your site, or check online for plugins specific to the site that you are using.
Mobile is here to stay, and it’s going to keep changing the way we communicate, do business and shop. So it will pay to make sure you keep mobile in the back of your mind when making any decisions about marketing, any campaigns you run and what your website looks like.