Business > Merchant Voice

Mobile friendly, but just barely

Google’s long awaited “mobile friendly” algorithm change occurred yesterday, April 21. Sites that weren’t mobile friendly (as determined by Google) presumably experienced a reduction in mobile-search rankings. In this post, I’ll describe my gradual acceptance of the importance of mobile for my ecommerce business, and what I did to make my site mobile friendly, just in time for yesterday’s deadline.

I wasn’t an early adopter of mobile commerce, either for my website or shopping for myself. While I do believe many consumers browse and save sites via smartphones or tablets, I still am not sold that that everyone is comfortable buying on the mobile platform. I know while I browse on my tablet and phone, I reserve making my purchases when I am in my home office.

Most of My Traffic Comes from Mobile

I knew, based on my Google analytics traffic reports, that I had to convert to a mobile commerce site. I had seen steady increases over the years for mobile and tablet traffic, which now represents most of my traffic in 2015.

Fifty-one percent of my traffic comes from mobile or tablets and my conversion rate for mobile is less than it should be. Combined with Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm change, my business would suffer not only a loss of traffic but a loss of revenue, too. 2015 was the year to add mobile compatibility to my business.

Years ago, I priced three options for a mobile site: (a) a responsive layout — i.e., a layout that would automatically adapt for smartphones, tablets, and desktops, (b) a mobile redirect solution, and (c) iPhone and Android apps. A responsive website was the most costly up front. A mobile-hosted solution was going to cost a monthly premium plus the site design. And developers were unenthusiastic to develop a catalog-based app.

What Are My Competitors Up To?

Knowing my options, it was time to decide on a solution – or was it? Before I made a decision, I scouted my competitors. Who was mobile optimized? Who had responsive layout sites? Who wasn’t ready for the upcoming change?

I took my top three competitors and searched on Google via my phone. One competitor had a mobile site; one had a responsive layout; one had not made the switch (yet). I then looked at the current mobile page 1 search results in Google and found that most listings were optimized, but some were not. If I could convert my site to a mobile platform, I would have an edge over those not ready for the change.

Options for Going Mobile

Being on a hosted shopping cart solution (Yahoo Small Business), sometimes I am limited to what options I have — such as installing the Google Trusted Store badge. Luckily, I had all three mobile options at my fingertips. While I liked the idea of having a responsive site that I didn’t have to pay any additional monthly fees for, it was the highest cost, and if I redesigned my site in the future (which I will) it would be an additional cost to redesign the smartphone and tablet sites, too.

The second option was to use a company such as Unbound Commerce to design and host my mobile site. The upfront cost was significantly less than a responsive layout, but I would have to pay a monthly hosting fee. Still, it would be less than a responsive site, which I would presumably redesign every few years. But Unbound Commerce didn’t offer iPhone or Android apps – an idea that I’ve been toying with since I read in an article that consumers prefer mobile apps and spent more time and money when they had an app on their phone.

I searched for additional options, and discovered a company called MartMobi, which is an app within Yahoo Small Business that could seamlessly integrate within Yahoo. Not only would it create a mobile site, but depending on the plan I selected, it would create iPhone and Android apps, too. The cost was cheaper than Unbound Commerce. I was sold.

However, nothing is as easy as it seems, especially with ecommerce. Even though MartMobi was a Yahoo-approved app, it didn’t work. It wouldn’t connect to my catalog and pull my products. I contacted MartMobi for assistance but the staff was unable to work out a solution, even though the app should be a seamless integration. After a few weeks of corresponding with the app’s developer, he stopped contacting me and left me without a functioning mobile site. With the Google algorithm deadline quickly approaching, it was time for me to contact my second choice, Unbound Commerce.

I contacted Unbound Commerce, which has been in business for years, and spoke to a sales representative. I explained what I was looking to accomplish and the custom variables within my current storefront. While he assured me they would be able to accommodate any custom upgrades, the company failed to respond to further communication and requests for a price quote. I was running out of time and needed to find a solution quickly.

Yahoo sent an email the first week in April letting storeowners know that the Yahoo Small Business platform would now be mobile friendly and that we would have the option of turning on a mobile storefront within our backend system. The release was set to launch around April 14. I thought I was in the clear, and that my site would be mobile friendly based on my current template. But when the rollout occurred, the mobile templates were there, but they were blank. This was presumably because my site is a custom build.

My options for a mobile site suddenly disappeared, leaving me without much choice. I contacted my developer, Solid Cactus, to ask for a solution. The staff informed me that a responsive website was the best for the upcoming Google changes and that they had two solutions for me. Both options are more costly than what I originally anticipated — but I know a responsive site is the best choice. I have worked with Solid Cactus for more than 10 years and I am confident that it will come through for me and build the site in a timely fashion.

I learned a hard lesson trying to find a mobile solution: Don’t always go with the new app developer who hasn’t worked out the kinks and when a company fails to respond to requests for information, it may not be the best choice.

The good news is that I spoke to Yahoo, once more, immediately before the algorithm change. My site is now mobile compliant! While it isn’t perfect and I’ll still need to hire a developer to do some minor tweaking, it is functional for now.

Have you optimized your site for mobile commerce? What have you done for the change? If there are other Yahoo storeowners reading this, I’d love to hear what you’ve done for your mobile sites.

Erica Tevis
Erica Tevis
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