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Your retail customers are looking for your website in some pretty unusual places — on the commuter train, in the bathroom, and at the bar while waiting for friends. In other words, prime locations for mobile internet shopping. But if your retail site isn’t mobile friendly, they might have a hard time spending money with you from the comfort of their smartphone or tablet.
Online stores with mobile friendly websites are getting tons of traffic from customers who are shopping while waiting in line, laying awake in bed at night, and checking flash sales on the sly at work. A shop with a great mobile website is going everywhere their customers are going, even the bathroom.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of taking your retail site mobile, this is the time to make it happen.
People throughout most of the world (particularly those in remote or developing countries) are accessing the internet from a smartphone or tablet — using mobile devices for everything from banking to grocery shopping. In fact, 55 percent of all online retail searches were coming from a smartphone or tablet device as of July 2016. That is a huge amount of traffic you are potentially leaving on the table by not having a mobile friendly retail site.
Going mobile might seem like an all-consuming task, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Below, we’ll help you decide how to do it, what kind of experience you want to give your customers, and shortcuts for how to get it done quickly.
What kind of experience will you give your retail customers?
There are a few really shining examples of mobile design and whole lot of really awful ones, but there isn’t just one way to offer a great mobile experience. Here are a few examples of mobile being done oh so right.
I do a lot of bathtub shopping on Etsy.com. Their execution is flawless, their shopping cart experience is simple, and the site loads quickly. Sure, Etsy has tremendous infrastructure to handle their traffic, but they started small and grew into what they are now, and so can you.
I love everything about stylebyemilyhenderson.com, but what I love the most is that the design is ultra clean. This allows the site to load quickly and my eye to focus on what Emily wants me to see — her great writing and gorgeous photos.
Adrian Zumbrunnen is a writer, speaker and UX designer with a seriously killer mobile site at Azumbrunnen.me. Fully interactive, Zumbrunnen’s personal site uses his design skills to show and tell the visitor what he is about.
Going mobile: The nuts and bolts
Now that you are empowered with great examples, let’s get into the logistics of going mobile. You have two upfront options for creating a great mobile experience for your visitors and customers.
You can choose to create a:
- Responsive website — one that would have the same features and open beautifully on screens of all sizes.
- Separate mobile website, that could, but doesn’t need to, have all the features as your desktop website, just adjusted to smaller screens.
Going with the responsive website
If you already have a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress, and would really like to continue using it, you can either modify your existing theme or switch to a new one.
You also can choose to redesign your website by switching to a new responsive theme. Although it might sound like the most drastic of all the approaches, it could end up being the easiest way to go mobile-friendly. It allows you to get a responsive website without doing any programming yourself, unless you wish to do modifications there as well.
Pro tip: When searching for the perfect WordPress theme, make sure to check the “responsive” option.
If you want to redesign your website but you don’t want an existing theme, try Bootstrap, a mobile-first front-end framework that can help you significantly with the website development process by providing some of the elements.
Going with a separate mobile website
Here, you can again start from scratch, or, if you already have a CMS you want to use, you can search for separate mobile themes and plugins that can help.
But remember, it’s up to you to detect mobile visitors and serve them the right website version. Mobiledetect is a lightweight PHP class (or a WordPress, Drupal and Joomla plugin, if you are using a CMS) for detecting smartphones and tablets. This tool can save you a lot of time if you decide to build a separate mobile website.
Of course, whatever website mobility path you take to get more retail customers, you can always hire someone to do it for you. If the thought of juggling yet another thing seems overwhelming, and you have the budget, pay an expert.
There is no shame in this game — you are busy.
Tips, tricks and shortcuts
Once you decide what your approach to making your site mobile friendly will be, these four tips will help you stay on track to achieving true mobile greatness.
- Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check how mobile friendly your existing site is. This will help you understand how much needs to be done so you can decide on the best approach.
- When creating content for retail customers on mobile, write clearly and concisely. People are accessing your site on the go; make it easy for them to get as much information as possible.
- Keep your design simple. All of the exciting visuals that make your desktop site gorgeous will crush your mobile users’ will to live. Clean design will load quickly and keep your visitors on the page. Don’t forget that you are designing for a much smaller screen.
- Don’t skip the important stuff. Shops and restaurants should include the address and hours of operation in an easily accessible spot. If your site is advertising an event, don’t forget the what/when/where, and if you have a blog, remember to include a brief explanation of who you are and tie it back into your retail business.
Don’t worry about getting your mobile retail site perfect right out of the gate. Websites, mobile or otherwise, should continuously evolve. Once your mobile site is up and running, you can always be there when your retail customers need you — even in the bathroom.