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How Ecommerce Sites Need to Handle Mobile Traffic

4 years ago

People use their phones for a lot of things, but most of the time they reach for them with a purpose in mind. Maybe that’s as simple as alleviating boredom, but more often they reach for their phones because they need to solve a problem. Those sudden flurries of need are what Google is calling “micro moments”. We’ve written about Google’s Micro Moments before, and their impact on buying habits.

Whether it’s a chance encounter, a sudden whim, or an unanticipated need, people have become accustomed to the ready access to the web to solve those problems. That’s where ecommerce comes into the picture.

Consider the following example:

Jacqueline is walking down the street one evening and spies a handbag in the window of a shop. The tag isn’t visible, but the print is quite distinct. It’s black, with roses and a stylized white rabbit.

She takes out her phone.

A quick image search later, and she finds her handbag. She follows the image back to its host site, an ecommerce shop based in Milan. Five minutes later, the handbag is on its way to her doorstep.

This is a textbook example of a micro-moment. A sudden flash of inspiration led to a purchase. Here’s a breakdown of everything the ecommerce site did right.

  • Their pictures were tagged with appropriate keywords and optimised to be crawled properly
  • The site was optimised for mobile traffic
  • The site detected Jacqueline’s browser settings and presented an English version of the site (critical, since the store offered international shipping)

Now that we’ve seen one practical example let’s explore some more specific ways ecommerce sites need to optimise for the new Mobile-First paradigm.

User Experience

User experience (or UX) refers to the interactions of a user with a site, product, interface, service, and so on. Good user experience comes from a site which is quick, helpful, intuitive, and dependable.

Users don’t want to spend more time than is needed, and mobile users, in particular, may have to make compromises in their use of a site for their real-world context. They may be moving between cell towers or using your site in fits and starts throughout a busy day. Any redirects, long load times, labyrinthine menu layouts, or redundant fields may be enough to deter potential customers and leave a sour taste.

So how can you make sure your UX is up to spec?

  1. Reduce load time

Elaborate animations, 4K images, or flashy transitions mostly just get in the way for mobile users. Anything that isn’t functional should be omitted.

  1. Keep menus simple

Make sure you’ve got obvious contact points for the things your users are most likely there to find. A good rule of thumb is that any content should be accessible no more than two pages deep.

  1. Consider a dedicated mobile version of your site

A streamlined version of your site built for mobile efficiency goes a long way. If your site is built for online sales, the paragraph about your brick-and-mortar location might be better placed on a side-page, rather than taking up space on your homepage, for instance.

Your primary goals are clarity, usability, and efficiency. A user can always request the full desktop version manually if they need to.

Progressive Enhancement

There are two main design philosophies when it comes to developing that dedicated mobile version of your site. The first is a sort of “graceful degradation”, or a paring down of the extraneous features from your desktop site. This is not what you should be doing. No matter how much you pare away, you’ll never escape the underlying desktop architecture, and you’ll alienate certain mobile devices, or cause unnecessarily long load times.

Rather, you should build your mobile site from the ground up. Like responsive design, it allows a site to adapt dynamically to the needs of different devices and browsers. Build your mobile site to load the simplest, most core features first, then add to that architecture until the browser says “stop”. As a rule of thumb, it follows a simple pattern:  HTML > CSS > Java / HTML3.

Device Ecosystems

Mobile users tend to flow between phones, tablets, desktops, etc. While in the past, devices had been considered discrete, now they tend to be used as interchangeable portals or interfaces for content. It’s the content or the site that’s constant. Be sure your site can accommodate that workflow.

Users may be logged into the same Chrome account on a variety of devices, for instance. Or they may request a session-resume email to connect them with their shopping cart from another device. However, your site provides it, be sure that it can handle these demands.

Mobile First and Ecommerce

Mobile devices aren’t satellite devices anymore. For many users, they’re the primary devices, if a user makes a distinction between devices at all. Ecommerce sites, like the rest of the digital world, need to adapt to the new order or risk losing their user base. Don’t let your site fall behind – make sure your ecommerce site is ready to provide the best experience to mobile customers and let your business thrive!

Guest Post by Andrew McLoughlin for Colibri Digital Marketing

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