Introducing the Future: A ‘Mobile First’ E-Commerce Strategy

By Lucas Challamel | 17 Oct 2012

With consumers now able to access products and services 24/7 from wherever they are connected, the question is no longer why, but how do I best get my business mobile?

By 2014 there will be more mobile devices accessing the Web than desktop PCs. Three quarters of Australians own a smartphone and 42 percent of them already use it to shop online. This means that a mobile strategy is increasingly the most crucial part of any retailer’s future planning.

Mobile already impacts the entire business lifecycle today. The smartphone is now the integrative element that is acting as a catalyst for multichannel retailing. Thinking ‘Mobile First’ means meeting your customer where he is looking for you at the time he is looking for you, in the place he is looking for you and in a manner appropriate to the screen he is using to interact with you.

Studies show that having a well-optimised mobile site works wonders for retailers, and is driving the multichannel shopping experience.

Studies show that having a well-optimised mobile site works wonders for retailers, and is driving the multichannel shopping experience.

A “Mobile First” Strategy Starts with the Consumer

Mobile devices give us unprecedented access to the web and allow us to purchase wherever and whenever we want. A third of all web searches are for items found locally. Two-thirds of searchers visit a store in person and 90 percent of mobile searchers act within 24 hours of their search. E-commerce and retail vendors who want to stay relevant and reach customers where they are shopping must be on mobile.

Many vendors start their mobile strategy with technology, but this is a mistake. You must first find out as much as you can about your potential mobile audience. Study the demographics of your existing customer base and use research available to understand user behavior with mobile device and multi-screen browsing.  

Once you have a general understanding or view on your customer base and how they use their device, test the water with a simple mobile project. Encouraging mobile users to interact with you could be as simple as adding GPS lookup to your store locator or adding reviews and recommendations to the product barcodes shoppers scan in your store.

A single-page mobile website or web app can achieve this. You can build off of this foundation with OS-specific hybrid apps that generate additional reach via app stores and use native device features to enhance the user experience and you will have gained mobile experience and metrics to help design a broader mobile site offering. Netbiscuits Platform has pre-programmed features for fast development of mobile websites that use the latest functionality of devices like touch, GPS and many more.

Meet Technical Challenges with a Strategy You Can Grow With

Success as a mobile retailer is not just about engaging consumers in an intelligent way with relevant local offers where they are searching. To be successful, optimal content needs to be delivered reliably and sustainably across a range of connected devices – from smartphones, tablets to desktops and smart TVs – not to mention the hundreds of combinations of mobile operating system versions, mobile browser versions and screen sizes for all these devices.

Responsive Design (RD) is a buzzword among user experience designers and web developers. The philosophy for coding to overcome multi-device challenges from a single code base that ‘responds’ to the requesting device by automatically scaling content to set parameters such as screen size and orientation.

Retail has become a practice of ensuring you meet customers wherever they are, on every device.

Retailing has become a challenge to meet your target customer wherever they happen to be. Has your site got all its bases covered?

But in reality, the mobile world is full of complex exceptions to the rule and responsive design alone cannot fit all. New devices are entering the market all the time and there are significant differences in user interaction with the same information on different devices in different contexts. Pure responsive design sites inherently deliver a compromise to the mobile user that falls short of being mobile-friendly – especially in terms of page load performance on mobile networks.

Draw on Industry Best Practices

The mobile web is changing at a dramatic pace. In order to successfully implement a mobile user-oriented strategy that you can afford and avoid technical pitfalls, consider the following tips:

Use standard technologies on proven infrastructure and services

  • Reduce the number of platforms and/or partners you work with to keep things manageable
  • Use pre-defined solutions to implement standard features and backend integrations
  • 24/7 supported SaaS (or PaaS/IaaS) solutions allow you to scale up and down economically

Provide the best possible user experience on the widest range of devices

  • Aim for the best user experiences on all devices relevant to your audience
  • Make your service instantly available, also for new devices in the market
  • Take advantage of device-specific capabilities if they support your business case

No matter what specific strategy you arrive at, or whichever technology you choose to partner with, ensure that you have catered for a ‘Mobile First’ philosophy. A great solution should ideally embrace responsive design and fill the gaps encountered by mobile web developers and designers with tools, pre-programmed features and functionality based on industry standards. The aim is to reap the benefits of a fully adaptive, optimised mobile web experiences for all devices, enabling superior mobile analytics capabilities in order to further maximise user impact and web monetisation.

If your current strategy and solutions can’t achieve this for your business, then it’s time to take another look at your ‘Mobile First’ strategy.

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