Responsive website design worth consideration

With careful planning and custom elements, some say that responsive website design could address many e-commerce design, content and work flow challenges posed by the plethora of mobile devices, tablets and desktops. Others question if the extra coding, planning, and additional factors are worth the upfront investment.

But Raul Justiniano, a web designer at Perry Ellis, knows first hand about the costs and benefits of applying this new concept to Internet retail. He’ll share insights next month at the 2013 Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference workshop titled, “Responsive web design: One size fits all, but at what price?”

Since the use of responsive website design is still fairly low, documentation describing pitfalls and best practices are not prevalent, Justiniano’s IRWD 2013 session should be packed. In the meantime, a recent Mobile Commerce Daily article offers some pros and cons that are worth considering.

If you’re not sure what a “responsive website” looks like? Check out this Dec. 11, 2012 Mashable.com article:

“In simple terms, a responsive web design uses “media queries” to figure out what resolution of device it’s being served on. Flexible images and fluid grids then size correctly to fit the screen. If you’re viewing this article on a desktop browser, for example, try making your browser window smaller. The images and content column will shrink, then the sidebar will disappear altogether. On our homepage, you’ll see the layout shrink from three columns, to two columns, to a singular column of content.

In the case of Mashable, we also detect the type of device and change the site’s behavior accordingly. On touch devices, for instance, we enable swiping between columns. (Technically, detecting device functionalities may be referred to as “adaptive design,” rather than “responsive,” but increasingly both approaches are used in tandem.)

The benefits are obvious: You build a website once, and it works seamlessly across thousands of different screens.”

Retailers slow to optimize for m-commerce will miss out on sales (Part 2 of 3)

Regardless of the speed and number of retailers who are cautiously dipping their toes at the pool party, mobile shoppers are jumping in with delight. While there’s lots of data out there, though sometimes conflicting, on the top 100 – 500 e-retailers, what about the smaller to mid-size Internet shops?

To gain greater insight, we reviewed two apparel and accessories shops and two specialty shops focusing on technical and / or specialized parts and equipment. The latter two traditionally attract more male shoppers than female. One of the apparel and accessories audiences includes more women, while the other is more saturated with men.

Based on this small sample of four mid-sized retail websites, we know that in the first quarter of 2012 mobile accounted for an average of 13.77% of all website transactions compared to an average of 5.81% last year. Overall, the proportion of mobile shoppers has significantly increased by 137%.

One of these four retailers experienced a record breaking day recently with mobile accounting for 12 % of revenue on the first Tuesday in May compared to only 1.8 % on the same day of the same week last year. That’s definitely something to celebrate! While comparing the same two days, data also shows the percentage of mobile visitors and mobile visits each increased by about 10 percentage points, rising from about 7% to 17%.

A quick review of our subjects’ first quarters in 2011 and 2012 reveals some interesting observations about the growth of m-commerce. Analytics show that the percentage of visitors and visits is more than doubling in most cases. And, the percent of transactions and transaction revenues is tripling or at least more than doubling.

• Visits – While the totals vary, the percentage of mobile visitors as well as mobile visits more than doubled for three out of four retailers in our review.

• Visitors – One retailer enjoyed an increase of 10 percentage points in the number of visitors with about 7 % in 2011 and 17 % in 2012. The others saw more modest jumps of 5 – 8 percentage points this year compared to last.

• Transactions – Interesting, the percent of mobile transactions and transaction revenue, though a small portion of the retailer’s online sales, roughly tripled for three of the four retailers. The retailer whose transaction percentages more than doubled (but not tripled) actually had a much higher percent of transactions and transaction revenue than the other three. This data leads me to ponder the difference: technical reasons, repeat customers who were early m-commerce adopters, etc.

So what does this growth mean for retailers who have not taken any steps yet to mobilize their websites, especially in the checkout process? Compuware’s 2011 report, What Users Want from Mobile, indicates that retailers who snooze will indeed lose.

We know that shoppers often abandon sites that perform poorly on mobile in favor of competitor sites that offers a mobile-optimized version. Further, researchers discovered that 57 % of shoppers polled would not even recommend to a friend a retailer who had a “bad” mobile website.

No matter how the numbers add up or the size of the retailer, what we do know is that a lack of mobile-friendly pages translates into lower mobile conversion rates and missed sales. That’s why it’s time to take a deep breath and make your entrance into the m-commerce scene sooner than later. Come join the mobile party!

Editor’s Note: The next installment in this series on mobile commerce will be coming soon. Stay tuned for part 3. We’ll explore steps retailers can take now toward m-commerce.