Last year, over 70% of Americans were using mobile smartphones and that number is growing fast. Couple that with the fact that a quarter of all e-commerce transactions last year happened on mobile devices like phones and tablets and you’ll start to see that mobile commerce isn’t just important for your online store, it’s absolutely vital not only to survive in today’s e-commerce climate but also to adapt to whatever is coming next. Is your online store taking advantage of current mobile commerce trends or are you missing out on those sales?
The big dogs at retail like Amazon, Target, and Zappos all have their own designated shopping apps, so it’s tempting to think that you probably need one too. An app is software your buyers would download to their mobile devices to be able to purchase from your online store. The advantage to having your own mobile app is that it’s customized exactly to the needs of your store and built specifically for the mobile platform so there’s fewer compatibility issues.
Despite the benefits, there are challenges to having your own app. It could be costly, depending on how many bells and whistles you desire. Getting an iPhone and iPad to play nice together can be enough of a challenge without having to add Android and other mobile platforms into the mix. Tablets and smartphones can even have different needs on the very same platform. While you may think that directing your buyers to an external app means you don’t have to worry about how your online store works on a mobile browser, the reality is, only your most dedicated buyers would be willing to install your app. The rest will go to your site first anyway.
If you aren’t quite ready to invest in a mobile app, your time and dollars may be better served on making sure your entire online store is mobile ready. Not only is this more convenient for buyers, who don’t have to download anything additional to make their purchase, it lets you focus your efforts on a single e-commerce platform instead of having to juggle the needs of the app and the site at the same time. You’re already marketing the URL of your online store so it’s the place potential buyers are most likely to find you anyway. Now you just need to make it easier for them visit on their preferred mobile device.
A website that’s mobile responsive is simple, flexible and automatically adjusts based on the device it’s loaded on. Have you ever visited a site on your phone or tablet that looked all wrong, images much too wide for your screen, navigation hidden, the need to scroll both horizontally and vertically to see everything? A mobile responsive site keeps navigation and content easy to find, automatically adjusting everything from image and text size to the position of extraneous info, such as sidebars, to ensure the most important information on your site stays visible. When done right, it works automatically, creating an online store that looks and works great no matter what you load it on.
What are you using to sell these days? Your e-commerce platform itself may provide tools to make your online store mobile ready. It may already be generating a responsive mobile version of your site and you may not even realize it. Popular marketplace platforms like eBay, Etsy and Amazon already have strong mobile apps where your items can be purchased easily from any mobile device. Even open source e-commerce options like Woo Commerce, Zen Cart or PrestaShop and shopping cart widgets like Ecwid often only need a mobile friendly theme or design template to provide buyers with a great mobile e-commerce experience.
If your current platform isn’t mobile friendly, it may well be worth the time, trouble and expense of switching. Alienating a quarter of your potential buyers is a big deal. Simply making mobile purchases simpler could easily result in a profit increase without changing anything else.
Once you know the nuts and bolts of your site will work on a mobile platform, it’s time to shift your thinking into a mobile mindset. Mobile users have a smaller screen than a desktop user and are often browsing your online store on the go. Your mobile customers are short on time, which means a greater focus on visual content to convey information quickly (a picture is worth a thousand words after all) while what text there is should be short and to the point. If you knew most of your buyers were only going to look at the pictures and maybe the first line or two of your text, how would that change how you present your products? Take pictures like you have no description and highlight the most important info by putting it right up front.
Beyond your content itself, format matters too. A clear, readable font is a must for the mobile screens while anything that slows your pages down or doesn’t load on mobile, such as Flash, needs to go. One of the simplest ways to check how your online store works on mobile is to load it in a variety of mobile browsers and platforms and take it for a test drive. If your circle of friends doesn’t have enough mobile variety of proper testing, try a technology superstore where they’ll have a sample of all the popular devices for you to test your site on.
Mobile e-commerce is fast and convenient and the easier you make it for your buyers to purchase from you, the more likely they will. While it can seem overwhelming, getting your online store ready for mobile shoppers is quicker and simpler than you’re expecting and can result in sales growth both now and into the future. Mobile isn’t just here to stay, it’s growing at an astronomical rate. The more work you do now to get your site ready, the more you’ll be able to ride this wave into future profits.
Are you ready for your own mobile app or do you need help making your online store mobile responsive? Contact us!
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