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A hard and fast guide to going mobile

A hard and fast guide to going mobile Joseph Bruemmer

Last year was the year that shopping on mobile devices became the norm. The latest Pew Internet and American Life Project research (2012) shows 88 percent of American adults have a cell phone, and among cell phone owners, 53 percent use a smartphone. Today, more than 50 percent of U.S. subscribers regularly browse the web on their mobile phones. Google predicts mobile web traffic will surpass PC web traffic this year. It won't take long before smartphones and tablets dominate retail sales over laptops and desktops. That's why merchants must prepare now to accommodate mobile shoppers.


I'd like to review some relevant mobile trends and offer tips for mobile optimization, as well as automated solutions for multiple-location merchants (mobile location finder). We'll start with the mobile stats that impact internet sales below and follow with optimization tips for making your site mobile, SEO, and user friendly.

Proliferation and effectiveness of mobile devices

  • Over 1 billion of the worlds 4+ billion mobile devices are smartphones and 3 billion are SMS enabled

  • In the U.S. 9 out of 10 people are mobile subscribers

  • Seventy-nine percent of smartphone owners use their phones for shopping

  • In 2011, over 50 percent of all local searches were conducted from a mobile device

  • Tablets are replacing laptops and will total more than 100 million globally by year end 2012

  • Tablets made major inroads in retail -- 77 percent of all mobile traffic is from tablets

  • Mobile ads are four to five times more effective than online ads

  • By 2014, it's estimated mobile internet usage will overtake desktop internet usage

  • Eighty-six percent of mobile users are watching TV while using a mobile phone

  • On average, Americans spend 2.7 hours per day socializing on mobile devices

  • Twenty-nine percent of mobile users would scan a mobile tag to get coupons for instant store use

  • Mobile search has had 30x growth in the last 3 years

Changes in consumer shopping behavior

It's interesting to note how consumer behavior is changing when shopping with a mobile device. It's common for consumers to use their devices for guidance in making purchasing decisions. Not only that, retail employees are now using mobile devices to check inventory and pricing.

Motorola Solutions 2011 Holiday Shopping Survey shows that consumers and retail employees want to use smartphones to find product information inside stores.

This trend of using mobile devices for pricing, product reviews, and item availability before making purchase decisions was highest among consumers aged 25-35, according to the report, which also found:

  • Forty-three percent of shoppers use a mobile app to find items in store aisles

  • Nearly 11 percent of consumers use smartphones in store for making purchase decisions

  • Retail employees (71 percent) want to use store-provided mobile devices to check inventory for shoppers

The report concluded: "The majority of retail associates feel they would benefit from a widely deployed mobile device with inventory and price-checking applications."

It also appears that mobile phone apps are emerging as a key shopping tool. While not replacing the clipped coupon, mobile apps are widely used by consumers looking for the best bargains.

The importance of providing a good customer experience

The average consumer can use multiple devices or browsers during the purchase cycle. For that reason, e-commerce merchants must ensure a good consumer experience on all devices, both on their websites and with their advertising campaigns.

When it comes to advertising, web merchants must plan targeted campaigns to reach shoppers on mobile devices. Text messaging (SMS) is one option for providing instant communication to shoppers on the go.

It's important to offer your customers value with a strong call-to-action enticing them to buy. One way to do that is to reach out to your customers once a month with mobile coupons, discounts or other incentives and rewards.

Tailoring your advertising campaigns to mobile users is very important. Reach your customers in a way that's convenient for their devices. Use short text, as query length is shorter on mobile.

  • Text messages are read over 96 percent of the time and get eight times the results of email

  • Craft mobile-only campaigns that are focused with unique offers

  • Schedule text messages to coordinate with important events and promotions

  • Send automated follow up messages when mobile users engage in a transaction

  • Reach mobile users as they approach your store using geo-locating technology

Before you advertise, ensure you have a mobile friendly site. As more consumers use mobile devices, e-commerce merchants with a user-friendly mobile site will see conversion rates double their previous rates with a site optimized for mobile.

Optimizing your site for mobile devices

Research by Hawk Partners for ZMags shows that many web merchants are not prepared to accommodate mobile shoppers despite the increase in smartphone and tablet traffic. The study found that less than one-third of retailers have optimized their sites for mobile commerce. The others are relying on their standard websites to deliver "good enough" mobile shopping. These sites still have text and images that are unsuitable for the small screen. The result is slow loading pages that are hard to read and have minimum functionality.

In a survey of over 4,000 mobile web users, 74 percent said they would only wait 5 seconds or less for a single web page to load before leaving a site (Compuware, 2011). That means e-commerce merchants better have a mobile site that provides a good user experience and seamless transactions or lose sales.
E-commerce merchants have three options for mobile functionality:

  • Redirect your website for mobile users to a mobile version of your site

  • Build a mobile website

  • Build a mobile app

You'll get your greatest reach with a mobile website, and many of your loyal customers will use your app. Below are six tips for making your site mobile ready and fast loading.

Create two new style sheets
Name one style sheet "iPhone.css" and the other "handheld.css" to render your site properly on mobile devices.  Most mobile devices look for the handheld.css style sheet, except for the iPhone, which is different.

Think small
We know mobile users have little tolerance for slow-loading pages, so keep it simple and user-friendly for the small screen. Consumers want basic information like product, price, hours of operation, specials, coupons, etc.

Avoid Flash
Smartphones don't render flash and search engines have difficulty crawling flash content so it's a no-no from both an SEO and user-experience stand point.

Create a mobile sitemap
This makes it easy for mobile crawlers to find your content. Include a link to your sitemap in your Robots.txt file.

Submit to local search engines
By submitting your business information to Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, and the Bing Business Portal, you'll be displaying a map, directions, and more in search results.

Submit your mobile site for testing to see how it performs. The W3C MobileOK Checker performs various tests on a web page to determine its level of mobile-friendliness.

Optimization for multi-location web merchants

Large e-commerce merchants with multiple locations can consider mobile store locator software that automatically builds an entire mobile web-formatted store locator platform based on their existing business location data, accommodating mobile users by GPS location, IP address, city, state, zip code, neighborhood or street address, and promotes social sharing.

As you can see below, the user experience with the mobile store locator allows customers to see all tabs on one page rather than having to click through several mobile pages to find what they're looking for. All tabs have analytics reporting the number of clicks to maps, directions, specials, coupons, rich media, etc.

In conclusion, 2012 will prove to be the year that web merchants profit by focusing on mobile. You can reap the rewards of mobile shopping with a mobile-friendly website that works across devices. It won't be long before mobile traffic dominates. Merchants in-the-know can anticipate the changes in shopper behavior by accommodating mobile shoppers on their mobile sites or with a mobile app.

Joseph Bruemmer is managing partner of PB Communications LLC .

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As a managing partner in PB Communications LLC, Joseph M. Bruemmer has experience in enterprise SEO, market analysis, business development, semantic web optimization, local search optimization and inside/outside sales. He is a member of Semantic Web...

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