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.
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.
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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