The Great mCommerce Challenge

Wednesday April 19, 2017 | Posted at 10:14 am | By Martin Turner
April 19, 2017 @ 10:14 am

The rise of mobile devices as shopping tools has posed a thorny problem for retailers of all stripes. It’s one of the top three concerns for more than half of retailers in North America in 2017, and it is related to that other beloved topic of industry column inches – millennials/Generation Z.

This is because the biggest users of mobile devices to shop are the millennial generation. However, how does this tie into their perception of brands and larger retailers? 

Well, one of their biggest concerns when it comes to brands is the availability of their inventory. This suggests that perhaps they are not as straightforwardly obsessed with trendy imagery as has been assumed. Convenience plays a big role in decision-making.

Don’t forget, this means availability in terms of channel as well as device. Some of the most mobile shoppers are those who primarily use marketplaces. 60% of eBay’s sales are ‘touched’ by mobile – meaning they are browsed with a mobile device and later purchased by the same account on another device, or purchased directly via mobile.

Large marketplaces know this, and specifically work to perfect their sites for mobile performance, and create powerful apps which make the mobile shopping experience work for consumers.

Marketplaces can afford to do this (and arguably can’t afford not to), but mobile optimisation is a surprisingly tough nut to crack for many retailers and brands.

Top retailers frequently suffer poor mobile performance and many do not have apps – can they realistically afford to lose out on mobile commerce that is already considered by many to be the primary path to purchase? Unlikely. The solution is two-pronged.

First: follow the consumer

Jeff Bezos’ advice is to be “consumer-obsessed” and that philosophy has taken Amazon from an online bookseller to the biggest ecommerce player in the western hemisphere.

In this case, the mobile audience is already shopping in-app on Amazon and eBay. If a product isn’t there when they start their search, it’s already not in consideration and has fallen at the first hurdle. 55% of product searches start on Amazon – and more will go to eBay or another marketplace.

In this era, expecting customers to come to a single brand or retail site every time they need something is like expecting shoppers to visit one geographically isolated shop instead of going to a shopping centre and browsing multiple shops. Every time. 88% of consumers expect to find their favourite brands on marketplaces!

Sure, some of the time that might be where they want to be – but realistically, retailers are better off being in both places.

The great part about this is that retailers can piggyback on the work of the marketplace, both in terms of mobile optimisation and search optimisation.

It’s also worth remembering that if there’s no official presence for branded products on certain channels, grey-market sellers will be happy to fulfil that demand – reducing brand value. Opening an official branded store on a marketplace such as eBay allows for better control of image as well as additional sales.

Second: have a mobile-first design

The second part of the strategy is to follow best practice for mobile responsivity and page load times on the website. Incredibly, many of the 50 biggest online retailers in the US still suffer from basic optimisation failures which cause sluggish load times.

Here are the key things you’ll need for a mobile-first design:

  • Consistent UX
  • Responsivity – a wireframe that adapts to screen size
  • Complete functionality with minimal elements
  • An understanding of the user journey

Consistency across pages is vital for users, who quickly become frustrated when having to learn new patterns and formats during their journey to a purchase.

Responsivity is the keystone of the mobile-first concept, as it enables a website to render differently depending on the size of screen. This means that one-site-fits-all, so to speak.

In recent years, many top retailers have segregated mobile browsers onto a different site. That practice resulted in significantly weaker SEO, delays before any content could load, additional maintenance cost and lack of future-proofing. Responsive web design means this no longer has to be the case.

Keeping the total number of elements and requests down obviously has a positive impact on load speed, which is a vital metric – conversions decrease rapidly for pages that take more than 2.4 seconds to load.

Finally, it’s vital to appreciate that browsers are at different stages along their transition to customers. Don’t just try to work around this. Work with it, by serving the customer’s needs appropriately.

This means making product information and reviews as easily accessible as the add-to-cart button to cater for “just browsing” users as well as those intending to buy. It means taking out signup forms and fiddly buttons out of the checkout process if they aren’t 100% necessary.

Ultimately what counts is the ability of a business to make its inventory available across channels and devices – this is the basic demand of the modern consumer. Marketplaces and independent webstores each have a role to play in satisfying the demand of mobile shoppers.

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