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Simon Armstrong of cloud-based ecommerce solution Actinic, provides some expert advice on how to create and market a mobile optimised version of your website

According to an Ofcom report from February 2012, 44 per cent of UK adults now own a smartphone – and the numbers keep increasing.

59 per cent of UK smartphone owners access the mobile internet every day, according to Google’s ‘Our Mobile Planet’ site. So as an online retailer, it’s time to put your mind to creating a mobile-optimised version of your website.

Just being able to view your normal website on a smartphone is not sufficient. There are additional challenges on what content and how to display it. Here are some points to consider:

• Screen size: you have to condense the essential information into a space that’s a 20th or 10th of the normal desktop screen display. The navigation needs to be uncluttered, with the most important information at the top of the page. The phone is likely to be touchscreen, so provide free space around links so they are easy to click.

• Connection speed and location: even though networks boast about 3G and even 4G speeds, in crowded places or built-up areas connection speeds can slow to a crawl. Condense product pictures as much as possible and offer users clickable thumbnails. The page size should be kept to a minimum- the total of all text, graphics, JavaScript and HTML, etc should not exceed 60K.

• Access time: when users visit your website from home or work, they normally have a full-size keyboard and easy access to what they need. A mobile user needs to get at the information fast; they are on the move, have a predictive text keyboard and probably won’t have all they need to hand.

Once you have a mobile optimised store, you will gain most success by marketing your site via smartphone devices.

• Size matters: at the very least, a mobile marketing campaign needs to be able to grab the consumer, no matter what size screen they have. Therefore you need to deliver advert and image formats their device can display and scale the images to the size of the user’s screen.

Smartphone devices are getting better at displaying different types of graphic and advert formats, but for ease of use it’s best to stick to JPGs and Gifs. Flash formats, video and JavaScript-based campaigns may not work universally; for example, Flash is not supported on iPhones or iPads. Additionally, the extra time spent waiting for sophisticated adverts to download and render will just prompt a user to click elsewhere.

• Keep it short: due to the reduced size of a mobile screen, you also need to be able to get your message across in as few words as possible. Short headlines that grab attention and brief explanations rather than extensive text are key on mobile devices. Only show the most essential content using black text on white, as it’s easiest to read in varying light conditions. Avoid repeating information and show new offers at the top of the page.

• Get the contact right: mobile users prefer a phone number to be the top contact option, not an email or a form. They also prefer a phone number they can ring for free, eg geographical STD numbers. Freephone and local rate numbers starting 08 like 0800 and 0845 aren’t included in many operators’ free allowances, so avoid them. Mobile users also prefer pre-filled forms and drop-down boxes over having to type in reams of text. Also, an express checkout on m-commerce would be the best option.

• Pulling it all together: the ‘call to action’ for a mobile marketing campaign should be through a mobile optimised online shop. By creating a complete mobile journey, you are in with a chance of clinching the deal. If customers have to come back later to place their order from a desktop, chances are you’ll have lost the sale.

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