Many of my customers are finding up to around 20% of their visitors are now using mobile devices to visit their online stores. However, the proportion of these mobile visitors that then go on and place an order is miniscule compared to people who visit using a standard computer.
Quick note: You can find out how many people visit your store using mobile devices by using Google Analytics. Check the ‘Operating System’ results – for example on my site I can see that 10% of my visitors use iOS (i.e. iPhones).
This is the challenge that is now facing all ecommerce sites: how do we encourage people using mobile devices to go on and place orders? For the last 10 years web designers like me have spent hours upon hours trying to create stores that just work correctly on all the different versions of Internet Explorer. Now we have to make sure that it works correctly on all these different handheld devices as well! It’s a frustrating problem, but it cannot be ignored. How can businesses make sure they don’t miss out on this potential business from mobile visitors?
The first solution is simple: do nothing. There is a strong argument to be made that people use mobile devices to do their research, but they don’t go on and input their payment details until they get home and use a computer. Also, when using tablet devices like iPads, most standard websites work perfectly fine as they are. However, I know from personal experience this isn’t the case. If I’m doing a bit of online shopping on the bus and I find a site that works well on my phone and accepts PayPal then I know that placing an order will just take a few clicks. However, if I find a site that requires me to continually scroll and resize the screen, and then expects me to spend ages inputting my name and address information, then I’ll certainly pass on placing an order.
The second solution is to set up a completely separate mobile version of your site alongside your standard site. Companies like MyMobWeb (http://www.mymobweb.com/) and MymCart (http://www.mymcart.com/) will build you a mobile-friendly site, which your mobile visitors will be automatically redirected to. This is great for information-based sites, but not ideal for fast-moving ecommerce stores that need to add products and remove products from sale in real-time. Plus, the hassle of having to maintain two online catalogues will be more than most small businesses can easily handle. The logistical considerations massively outweigh the potential benefits of a separate mobile site.
The third solution is technically the most challenging, but it’s the best in the long run – to use a system that can present your information in a variety of ways based on what visitors are using to view your site. So people using computers will see your standard site, but mobile visitors will see the same information laid out in a different way. If you have a WordPress-based site, there are already plenty of plugins that can do this for you. For ecommerce sites it’s trickier as it will require you to switch to an ecommerce system that is based around an online database – if you don’t already use one. Most leading ecommerce systems like Magento (http://www.magentocommerce.com), Actinic Online (www.actinic.co.uk) and CS-Cart (www.cs-cart.com) can handle the creation of mobile-friendly storefronts, which are simple to navigate and very easy to buy from.
If you think you might need to change ecommerce system, it will mean a massive amount of work and potential disruption, but mobile usage is only going to go up and making the move now will future-proof your site – at least until the next big technological breakthrough comes along!