Nowadays there are many arguments in favor of eCommerce mobile ready sites. They are claimed to bring more profit as they let mobile natives buy items using their smartphones. In 2017 two-thirds of internet users made purchases on mobile in the US retail sector according to eMarketer retail statistics. Comparing to 25% in 2012, this is a huge rise, proving the stable expansion of m-commerce. Also, starting April 21, 2015, mobile friendliness is considered a ranking factor by Google. All these things combined make mobile first web design a top priority in the development of any eCommerce website.
The only thing left is to choose the best way of communication with your mobile audience. And this choice is no easy. Do you have doubts about whether you should stick to eCommerce responsive design, create an adaptive or a mobile site or launch a mobile app? We’ll help you to get things clear.
While having a mobile optimized website is considered a must have for any retailer, this article will describe pros and cons of all the possible options. You will learn what factors your choice should be based on to build the most consistent and effective mobile strategy.
Note: We’re not trying to give you the perfect answer in this article, our goal is to get you contemplate over the importance of this question and consider different options.
Your choice should depend on your audience’s preferences, budget, and specifics of a mobile strategy with audience’s preferences being the most important factor. If you conduct audience analysis on a permanent basis, as well as keep an eye on your mobile purchases statistics, your reports will show what devices your visitors use, how they use them to browse your website and whether they achieve their goals using the current version. All this information will give you a hint on what option is more suitable for your particular situation.
Optimizing web experience
To ensure the best user experience on smartphones, consider optimization on mobile browsers first. It’s the simplest and most affordable choice that hits your main target – creates a mobile friendly eCommerce environment. Still, depending on whether you want to reach people using other devices than smartphones, and how many types of devices you target, choose between three options: a responsive layout, an adaptive layout, and a mobile version.
1. Responsive layout
Being considered an industry standard and recommended by Google, responsive websites bring much value to the customers regardless of the resolution of their devices. By making your website responsive you create a uniform design for customers using any type of devices for research and purchase activities. A responsive website readjusts its elements to fit the browser’s width. The design is created one time for multiple devices.
Accessibility from any device. A user could access your website on a smartphone, a tablet, a game console, a smart-TV or other large screen devices that have a browser. No app required.
Shareability. Customers could share links copied from a smartphone with people using a desktop version and vice versa without damaging user experience.
Technical simplicity. Creating a responsive website is possible using only the markup language - HTML - and a CSS stylesheet for each screen resolution.
Near-mobile-app user experience. With modern development and responsive design tools under the belt of skillful developers, a responsive website and a mobile app could be almost indistinguishable. The website, in that case, provides engaging experience, appreciated by users, and high conversion rates, admired by store owners.
Healthy SEO. Indexing one URL instead of multiple URLs of the same site, when there are desktop and mobile versions, for example, is easier for search engines (moreover, it’s a Google standard) as well as managing one SEO campaign instead of multiple ones is easier for your SEO specialists.
Keeping page loading fast. Despite the fact that often mobile versions keep half of the desktop version content, the device will load all the data and hide the other half with the CSS. As long as we can not allow slow page loading, the information architecture requires additional readjustment.
Balancing functionality with user experience. People browse your website on smartphones and other devices differently than computers. Their behavior is different and triggers used on your desktop version might not work on them as well. Research to provide valuable user experience to them on each device.
2. Adaptive layout
Adaptive layouts have come into sight as a result of the responsive design evolution. The principal difference between two concepts is the presence of breakpoints. They signal the layout to change once certain resolution criteria are met. Practically it means more control over the design look while preserving a certain level of flexibility.
Advantages of adaptive and responsive websites are almost the same. Accessibility from any device, shareability, technical simplicity and near-mobile-app user experience are relevant for both categories. Other advantages are described below.
High-quality user experience. Adaptive design takes into account differences in situational needs of users of different devices, that’s why each layout corresponds exactly to specific needs of users, taking into account their behavior in specific settings, increasing user engagement and conversion rates.
High speed. According to the Interaction design foundation research, in the majority of cases, adaptive websites are 2-3 times faster than responsive ones.
Long development time and high costs. Creating six layouts of different resolutions is a rule of thumb when making an adaptive website. Thus, you will need to spend more money on a larger development team.
Complicated development and support. Coordinating all the design and development efforts while creating all the layouts and supporting them afterward consumes more time and energy than doing the same for a responsive website.
3. Mobile website
Being considered outdated, mobile websites don’t play such an important role in business online presence as they used to several years ago. While a few companies (mostly large ones) still view their eCommerce mobile sites as a significant part of their strategy, nowadays it’s not the best option for newcomers to say the least.
Accessibility from mobile devices. A mobile phone user could access your website in a mobile browser. No app required.
Labor-intensive maintenance. You will have to dedicate a large portion of your efforts to coordinate two websites and carefully monitor that changes made to a desktop version are added to a mobile version and vice versa.
Limited shareability. Sharing a mobile link with desktop users is frustrating for them when they open it and see an unfamiliar layout with restricted functionality.
Double SEO work and presence of duplicate content. You will have to create two separate SEO strategies for a desktop website and a mobile website. Also, to avoid content duplication, copyright materials on different website versions shouldn’t coincide.
Creating a mobile app
If you want to create the most engaging user experience to satisfy your loyal customers addicted to mobile experience, a mobile app is an option for you. You could use an app builder or develop a native app, options vary depending on your budget and needed functionality.
Note: Keep in mind that an eCommerce app is more of a luxury than a necessity. It won’t propel your sales the second you upload it to the Google Play or App Store. Only the presence of a large loyal customer base, ready to download and frequently use it could justify its launch.
1. Out-of-the-box app
If you’re on a tight budget and consider the launch of a mobile app an experiment rather than a sound strategical component, using one of do-it-yourself app tools is more reasonable than hiring a team for the development of a native, or even hybrid, app.
Short and simple set up. While the majority of DIY app builders are subscription-based services offering free trial periods, they greatly simplify the configuration process to attract more customers. Choosing a set of required features and customizing the look of the app is a matter of hours.
Quick app launch. Having configured your app you’re all set to launch it. The duration of the publishing process directly relies on specifics of App Store and Google Play operations, but generally, it takes around half a week for App Store and from several hours to a few days in Google Play.
Note: Keep in mind that you’ll have to create your own Google Play Console and launch an app under your brand, while in the AppStore your app builder company could do it on your behalf.
Low cost and predictable spending. You could easily plan your budget as soon as costs of all the service packages are disposable on the websites of their providers. Moreover, comparing to the creation of a native app, app builders are much more affordable.
Generic app structure. As any of out-of-the-box solutions, apps built with the help of DIY tools, possess very limited functionality. Design isn’t optimized for particular needs of your store as well.
Limited opportunities for customization. Even if your app builder has 100+ templates and dozens of extensions in their marketplace, they still can’t reflect all the subtle features that would be really valuable for user experience and would bring you more revenue.
Reluctance of users to download the app. Even loyal customers are often too lazy to download your app and use it regularly. You will have to develop a brand new strategy for the promotion of your new app.
2. Native app
You’ve conducted a thorough research and came to a conclusion that your customers will get additional value from the app as well as you - additional dollars from their wallets. Does it sound like your situation? Then a native app might be an important element of your mobile strategy.
Personalized user experience. A mobile site couldn’t compare with the personalization power of apps. A wisely crafted mobile app could adjust to customers’ tastes and preferences and provide them with a personal motivation system.
Integration with the device’s built-in features. Developing a native app, you could take advantage of the integration with native device functionality. If these integrations bring much value to your buyers, your app will become not just an app, but a lifestyle companion.
Long development time and high development costs. Take into account your budget limitations and calculate approximate return on investment while planning to build an app. Note that costs of building a native app will be higher than any other option we described in this article.
No increase in the customer base. You won’t expand your audience creating a mobile app. It’s targeted to build loyalty with existing customers by providing them with features they couldn’t get on your website.
Launching a new marketing campaign. You will have to promote an app separately from your website, thus a new marketing campaign is required. Invest into a new marketing team with specific app promotion knowledge.
Making a long story short
Creating the high-quality mobile presence for your e-commerce website is a must nowadays. We recommend building it up gradually. A responsive or an adaptive website will bring much value to your customers without too much spending on it. A mobile app is relevant only if your customer base is wide enough to cover the costs and ready to use your app on a regular basis. Then it’s worth investing.
What challenges are you facing building the perfect m-commerce ecosystem? Share in the comment section!