Design & Development

Mobile Ecommerce Sites Should Be Fast and Robust

Internet users, and online shoppers specifically, want fast and robust online experiences regardless of whether they are using a desktop computer or the most basic smartphone. Ecommerce businesses competing in this era of the emerging mobile web must take steps to provide useful and rich shopping experiences.

Some 44 percent of American shoppers will not return to a website that is not mobile optimized after just a single visit, and 76 percent of users either won’t try to use a site that is not mobile ready or will simply turn to a competitive site, according to a recently released report from mobile development firm Netbiscuits.

“I have seen an enormous shift in consumer behavior that has been both caused and enabled by mobile technology,” wrote Paul Berney, chief marketing officer for Mobile Marketing Association. “It is this change to consumer behavior that is the biggest driver behind the need to create a strong mobile presence, rather than the technology itself. We already know that consumers can click and find, click and learn, click and do, and increasingly click and buy.”

Mobile Performance Is Important

Shoppers, regardless of how they access the Internet, are not going to patiently wait for a slow website to open, load pictures, or even load responsive style sheets. Rather, those shoppers expect a nearly instant response. What’s more they will reward ecommerce businesses that have high performance websites.

Writing for Google Think in 2012, the search engine’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure, Urs Hoelzle, stated, “When Shopzilla dropped latency from seven seconds to two, revenue went up 12 percent and page views jumped 25 percent.”

The bottom line, according to Hoelzle, is that “when you speed up service, people become more engaged — and when people become more engaged, they click and buy more.”

Separately, Forrester Research reported in 2012 that nearly twice as many mobile Internet users leave a website because it is not loading quickly enough as those users who access a sites from a desktop computer.

The aforementioned Netbiscuits’ report also found that speed — i.e., fast load times — was the mobile Internet user’s top concern, with 41 percent of respondents wanting fast loading pages above all else.

Fast Does not Mean Lean

In spite of a clear desire for speed, online shoppers and users do not want to compromise content, including images and video. Mobile smartphone and tablet users want to enjoy an experience that is the same or similar to what they get from a desktop or laptop system on their mobile devices.

This implies that dumbing down mobile sites is not the proper way to boost speed. There needs to be combination of faster mobile Internet connections and, frankly, better websites.

It is also worth noting that the desire for rich content was important to nearly twice as many respondents (33.2 percent) as was mobile Internet security (16.2 percent), according to the Netbiscuits’ report.

A Balance of Speed and Engagement in Site Design

Reports like the three — Netbiscuits, Google, and Forrester — cited herein reinforce what many site owners and designers already know. Mobile customers — shoppers — want good and useful information and they want it at their fingertips.

This may imply a few tactics for providing a better more optimized mobile ecommerce experience, including responsivity, adaptivity, and delivery.

Responsivity here is defined as a site’s ability to change its layout in response to the screen or window characteristics. Responsivity is best managed with cascading style sheets and seeks to present site or application content in a way that suites the user’s device and interface. An example might be a large touch-friendly “Add to Cart” button for tablets, verses a sleek call to action for desktops.

Adaptivity here means a site’s ability to change content, like the size of an image file, based on the user’s device. Here the example is a site the delivers a large 1,000-pixel square image at 125KB for a desktop user’s experience, but offers a 300-pixel square image at 25KB for an iPhone. The site is not simply resizing the image in the browser, but offering a right-sized image that will load more quickly, providing an experience similar to what a user would see in a desktop environment.

Delivery implies that leading ecommerce merchants are distributing images, videos, or similar elements on content delivery networks (CDNs) created to boost performance for users, regardless of where they are. CDNs are not necessarily expensive. Nearly any online retailer small or large should be able to find an effective CDN solution.

Mobile shopping is an important channel for many online retailers. Shoppers on mobile devices want fast-loading pages and a rich user and content experience.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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