Over the past five years, online retailers have taken a segmented approach to mobile commerce by developing separate channels for engaging consumers. Mobile sites became an industry standard to serve basic presentations of inventory and one-off functions like store locators, but left marketers constrained by the limited opportunities to deliver cohesive brand experiences and extended the intimacy of in-store experiences to devices.
As the iOS and Android mobile platforms emerged, marketers for the first time were able to have complete control over the brand experience by developing applications that could include promotional content, product inventory, and video. However, marketing departments quickly realised the difficulty of consistently maintaining applications that ran on operating systems unique to cell phone models, while also having to standardise product inventory across separate platforms. As marketers wrestled to bring dynamic brand content across mobile and desktop, a new design strategy emerged that enabled a content-centric POV while mitigating the additional infrastructure challenges associated with mobile commerce.
Responsive web design is an approach to creating consistent commerce experiences across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, regardless of screen size or manufacturer, by building a site’s layout on dynamic frames that shift the orientation of content to a viewer’s screen. While responsive web design first emerged in the design community in 2010 it wasn’t until 2012 that online retailers began to adopt the Web design strategy to target mobile consumers with minimum total cost of maintenance in the long term.
Here are six actions for merchants to consider as they engage design agencies to tackle mobile commerce at Christmas.
Action: Identify consumer behaviour on mobile sites
Ask yourself: Are customers actively purchasing from mobile devices or are they trying to locate a brick and mortar location?
Action: Outline mobile commerce goals
Ask yourself: How do you want consumers to engage with your brand from mobile devices? Are you trying to drive purchasing from devices or drive consumers to a brick-and-mortar location based on local inventory?
Action: Establish content strategy for mobile engagement
Ask yourself: What content does your mobile audience need to drive purchasing and does that content align with your mobile commerce goals?
Action: Create content orientation frames based on priority devices
Ask yourself: How do I want my storefront content to be ideally oriented, and can my graphics retain their integrity as they scale across screen sizes and resolutions?
Action: Actively engage design agency
Ask yourself: Has the design firm demonstrated customer success from site re-architectures and do they understand the core needs and behaviors of your target consumers?
Action: Maintain experience-centric POV
Ask yourself: When evolving your brand’s commerce strategy are you ensuring that consumers are able to engage with content consistently regardless of what channel they use to access your online storefront?
Marketers should consider a responsive online storefront if engaging with mobile consumers is a priority for their business. But before jumping into responsive Web design initiatives, consider if there is enough mobile demand to justify the investment of reevaluating the design of your online commerce platform and if your design approach anticipates new mobile screen resolutions in the future.
Looking ahead to 2014, responsive design approaches are evolving to a new adaptive design strategy that allows merchants to use device-specific templates to deliver mobile-optimised experiences by controlling what content is served to each unique mobile device or tablet. For marketers to take advantage of the added granularity of designing custom experiences for consumers on mobile devices, they must first have the internal discussion to align on a content-centric strategy and take the necessary steps now to implement responsive online storefronts.
Ben Pressley is head of worldwide sales at Magento
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