Making your website mobile friendly

Author -  Thomas Ford [Guest]

How to set up your online retail business for this year's online holiday shopping

Every year we tell ourselves that we're going to get our holiday shopping done early and that we aren't going to be one of 400 people standing in line at the mall at the last minute. But thanks to online shopping (and mobile online shopping, in particular), this problem is becoming a thing of the past.

Since 2010, the number of smartphone users has nearly tripled, and almost 79 per cent of those users utilize their phones for shopping, according to a recent survey by MobiThinking.   The flip side of this, however, is that very few online shops are set up for mobile browsing.

Consider the last time you searched for an item online. Did you tend to flip through sites that popped with a quick, easy-to-read menu of options, or the websites that featured their standard home pages with several small tabs, awkward divisions and pictures that took forever to load?

With the holidays right around the corner, now is an ideal time to set up your website for mobile viewing. And if you're still wondering why a mobile friendly website is important, here are a few statistics

  • According to Google, mobile searches have increased four-fold in the past year alone, with about one in seven of those searches being conducted by mobile.
  • Out of the general consuming public, about 25.4 per cent use mobile phones for online shopping.
  • Online shoppers tend to use their mobile devices for shopping instead of their computer while at work.

Additionally, shoppers also use their phones for price comparisons and for looking up goods in their specific post codes, which makes it more likely that local shops will pop up on their browsers. If you want to reach these shoppers, making your website mobile-friendly is a must.

Making your website mobile friendly is easier than you might think

Even though it's becoming increasingly important to make your website easy to browse for smartphones, the idea of creating, designing and detailing a mobile version of your website may sound like a daunting task; but it really isn't. 
Depending on the type of quality, the level of detailing and the amount of help you believe you'll need creating a mobile friendly site, the costs will certainly vary, so be sure to be honest with yourself about what you need and the type of experience you wish to convey to your customers

Is an app 'app-ropriate'?

Debates continue to rage over whether or not retail sites should have a downloadable app. While there are many websites out there that have apps that are regularly used by millions every day, these also tend to be one-stop sites such as email accounts and favourite social media sites. Shopping, however, tends to be more about browsing. If an online shopper is looking for a new set of saucepans, they might price the same set out at a couple of national sites and several local shops to get the best price.

In the end, if you feel that your business has enough regular, loyal shoppers that they could support the creation and maintenance of an app, then it would probably be a good idea to create one. Regardless of whether you go with an app, however, making your website mobile friendly should be your first step toward online shopper accessibility.

Making your mobility known

If your online shop has been functioning without a mobile option for a long time, you might need to let your current customer base know about the change. Placing a sticky note or announcement on your standard website will let your regular visitors know, and it always helps to make an announcement about it on your Facebook page and Twitter feed. Mobile advertising is also a good option as you can customize your advertising so that it only shows up in searches around local post codes. Other ideas include offering special deals that can only be viewed through your mobile-friendly site such as with a "deal of the day" button, or by offering a first time-only discount to shoppers who purchase an item from your store online.

Regardless of how you approach it, having a mobile friendly website can only help increase the number of people visiting and exploring your site and hopefully drive up sales, especially during one of the most important shopping times of the year.

What has been your experience with shopping online? Do you find mobile-friendly websites easier to navigate? How have your customers reacted to your use or non-use of a mobile friendly site?

Senior executive Thomas Ford is the Marketing Director of  123Print is a leading resource for high quality customizable items like holiday cards, business holiday stationary, letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.

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