Why every retailer needs a mobile website

The mobile revolution is changing the way retailers do business. That fact was never more prevalent than it was at last week’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in San Diego, which built an entire day of workshops dedicated to teaching retailers how to develop and execute mobile website strategies.

From an attendance perspective, IRCE was wildly successful. More than 7,300 individuals participated, up 14 percent from last year, easily making this year’s event the largest e-commerce event of all time. The number of exhibitors increased too, growing 20 percent to 502 companies.

As I hinted above, one of the hottest e-commerce trends being discussed both in the sessions and on the exhibit floor was the fast growth of customers using mobile devices for searching, researching and purchasing retail merchandise. Last year, Internet Retailer reported that 11 percent of U.S. mobile phone users make purchases through their phones. The percentage is nearly double (20 percent) for young adults ages 18-29.

And according to Forrester Research, consumer purchasing on mobile phones will only continue to grow, from $6 billion this year to $31 billion in 2016. During that same time period, mobile purchases will represent an increasing percentage of total online retail purchases, climbing from 2 percent in 2011 to 7 percent by 2016.

With statistics like these, it’s no wonder retailers are looking to invest in their mobile presence. On the IRCE show floor this year, I’d estimate that 50 percent of the retailers we talked to already have a mobile website, and another 20-25 percent are looking to jump on the bandwagon. Interestingly, only about 30 percent of the companies that stopped by our booth are monitoring their mobile website performance.

If you’re just starting to develop your m-commerce site, or even if you already have one, here are a few key points to help you optimize your website:

  1. You have less real estate to work with on a mobile device, in some cases only a couple square inches. To optimize that space, make sure you understand your customers’ website behavior. What do most shoppers typically do on your website–log-in to their account, search for a store location, and browse your merchandise? Whatever it is, make this function easily accessible on the smaller website viewing panes.
  2. Don’t forget to shrink and compress any images to make sure they load properly on mobile devices. Also determine how often they have to be refreshed.
  3. If you’d like to start monitoring your mobile website performance but don’t know where to begin, start by focusing in on what you can control. Utilize a performance monitoring tool, like DéjàClick, with AlertSite’s monitoring service, to show you how quickly and reliably your site loads on a variety of mobile devices over standard wire-based Internet. If you think your website is too slow, make adjustments so you can hit your performance benchmarks.
  4. Once you have a good idea of how your website performs, try running a performance test over a mobile carrier network to see what effect, if any, it has on mobile website speed.

The first step for retailers is going mobile. But once you’re there, it’s going to be a constant race to improve website performance and delivery for your customers.