Three ways to understand and design your business website for mobile

Small businesses are no doubt sick of hearing about mobile strategies.

Only a few years ago, online retailing was the order of the day, but now, experts say a company’s priority should be directed towards mobile strategies – and with good reason.

Plenty of small businesses are shocked when they see just how much traffic is heading to their sites from mobile devices, either smartphones or tablets.

And believe it or not, they require two totally different strategies. While most users tend to browse on their smartphones to find an idea of what they might want to buy, more conversions are actually happening on tablet devices when consumers are sitting back on the couch at home.

This means plenty of businesses are completely ignoring maximising their sales in a mobile-connected world.

At the recent eCommerce Conference in Melbourne, four mobile experts took to the stage to explain why small business needs to jump on the mobile bandwagon sooner rather than later.

“Consumers are desperate for mobile experiences,” says Hybris Australia managing director Graham Jackson.

“Mobile is usually the first point someone interacts with your brand. It needs to be the first thing you think about rather than the other way around.”

Plenty of businesses don’t necessarily understand how important mobile strategies are when compared to the overall business plan.

But as Jackson explains, mobile matters more than you think – data is now showing more retailers are receiving 50% of their web traffic from mobiles.

It makes sense. Having a computer in your pocket increases the likelihood you’ll make searches on a phone more than on a desktop PC.

“About 30% of all site internet traffic comes from a mobile device, including tablets,” he says.

“For a lot of our customers, their site traffic coming from mobiles is over 50%. So for them, when you’re making a case for a mobile strategy, it’s really more important than the desktop version.”

While Australian websites may not see most of their traffic sourced from mobile devices just yet, the trend is clear. By missing out on a mobile version, small businesses – and not just retailers – are missing out on a key first point of contact.

Sofa Max, senior consultant at EpiServer, said at the conference businesses need to start thinking of what kind of ‘mode’ a browser will be in when accessing a mobile site.

“Are they in a buying mode, or just browsing,” she says. “That’s going to be important because that’s going to influence what you have on there.”

“If you’re on a tablet, the majority of the traffic is coming from when the user is in the home.”

1. Understand where mobile traffic comes from

This misunderstanding of where traffic comes from is a key part of why so many businesses fail to understand mobile design, these experts say.

Mobile users accessing sites on a smartphone don’t necessarily want to have every piece of information thrown at them – they only want the essentials. A catalogue, some store locations and some contact details are usually what they’re after.

Tablet users, on the other hand, want an experience that’s more akin to a PC. They want to be able to actually buy products, which is evidenced by the fact these experts say conversion rates are far higher on tablets than they are on smartphones.

But when it comes to understanding these key points and reflecting them in design, Max says, businesses often fall short.

“What frustrates people is when they’re trying to access a site on a mobile device and it just doesn’t work properly,” she says.

“We’ve seen data from a survey in 2011 which asked what frustrated people the most about mobile sites, and 32% in the UK said it was sites being hard to navigate.”

“When we did the same survey this year it was 37%. People aren’t improving their sites, which is really scary.”

Navigation is critical. Smartphone users don’t have too much time to fiddle around with small links and fiddly navigation bars. They want clear direction and large links to help them to get to the most useful information quickly.

Sarah Hayden, customer relationship and digital manager at JeansWest, said the retail chain built its mobile site on that assumption.

“From a retail point of view, they want to know where the stores are, and they want to be able to buy. Anything else you can do is extra.”

For instance, if you’re pushing a number of small links up against each other on a smartphone design, you’ve made a mistake. Too many people are going to click on the wrong link – a business should make it unlikely for that to happen.

“The same study showed us that of the people who get frustrated and leave the website, 28% go straight to a competitor,” says Sofia Max.

“That’s a pretty important statistic,” she says. “You really need to understand where people are in the buying cycle and design based on that.”

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