In recent years, we’ve seen Internet shopping growing at a phenomenal rate. From big high street retailers to businesses that do all their trading online, the growth of e-commerce has provided a valuable new revenue stream in almost every customer-facing industry. And the companies that have best understood what constitutes a good online shopping experience (Amazon, anyone?) have been hugely successful as a result.
But the way people access the web is changing, and retailers that fail to get to grips with these changes risk getting left behind. Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, people are now connected to the net wherever they go, and that has fundamental implications not just for the way they consume information, but the also way they spend their money.
Simply having an online store is no longer enough; retailers need to ensure they provide the right experience on mobile devices too.
Stacey (Tecmark’s Digital Marketing Manager) highlighted some key statistics earlier this month:
One thing’s for sure – things don’t stand still in the digital age; the latest research from eDigitalResearch and Portaltech Reply suggests that 64% of UK smartphone users now use their mobiles to shop online, and 77% use their phones to research products before buying. Quite simply, the growth of m-commerce is an irreversible trend.
If you’re still not convinced the future is mobile, then how about an endorsement from the leader of the free world? President Obama issued a directive last week ordering all US government agencies to increase the number of services available to citizens on smartphones, stating: “Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device.”
Anytime. Anywhere. On any device.
Citizens ‘deserve’ these things, but customers demand them. If you don’t deliver a user-friendly mobile experience, there’s a good chance one of your competitors will, and you can say goodbye to your market share.
We’ve been blogging about m-commerce throughout the month, covering everything from mobile web design to SEO and PPC. Today, as one of Tecmark’s resident content evangelists, I’m
preaching about taking a closer look at the keys to creating great, conversion-focused content for m-commerce sites.
First, let’s deal with a question that consistently confuses people making the transition to mobile.
Mobile devices have smaller screens and less processing power than desktops or laptops, so a web page that contains hundreds of words of information, numerous images and a complex navigational menu will cause a number of problems if served to mobile users in exactly the same format. It will load slowly, it will look ugly and it will most likely stop people making a purchase.
One solution is to create a separate mobile site (i.e. mobile.yoursite.com or m.yoursite.com), which will have a simplified user interface and stripped-down content. That’s one way of ensuring that visitors will be able to easily navigate the site, and that the checkout process will be as slick as possible.
But a separate mobile site could be bad news for your search rankings – there are possible duplicate content issues, and you’re giving search engines a whole new set of URLs to crawl and index. It could also end up depriving visitors of information they would like to have access to.
With responsive web design, however, you can keep everything on a single domain, and serve the same URLs to every device. We use this principle on our own site, and it’s also encouraged by Bing and Google.
Stacey blogged about the SEO benefits of responsive design earlier in the month, whilst Mark, one of our developers, discussed how a separate site may be preferable in some cases. Seeing as I work on the SEO team, I’m siding with Stacey on this one – and a quick look at the Amazon site as viewed on an iPhone should hopefully back me up.
Amazon.co.uk serves exactly the same URLs to all devices, and uses styling to ensure it stays clean and uncluttered. Customers can search the entire product database from the homepage on any device, and once they navigate to a specific product, mobile users can easily see the different kinds of information available to them, and can then expand the description, or delve into a multitude of reviews if they want.
What Amazon have done incredibly well is find a way of presenting vast amounts of data in an easily digestible format. Customers can delve as deep as they want, but if they simply want to load the site and buy a product, they can do so in a matter of seconds whatever device they’re on.
By following this model, you can create an m-commerce site that preserves product descriptions, reviews and navigational functionality in full, but that presents them in a way that doesn’t risk melting the customer’s brain (or phone).
So to answer the question “is less really more?” – yes and no! Fewer URLs are preferable in terms of SEO, and less clutter on the screen will improve conversions, but creating a brilliant m-commerce experience shouldn’t mean sacrificing the deep content that customers are used to.
Every site will have different content requirements, but stick to some broad guiding principles and you’re off to a good start…
One thing Amazon does have is lots of duplicate content, particularly descriptions pulled from manufacturer websites. They can get away with this because of the strength of their domain, but it’s not something you should emulate if you want maximum search visibility.
Writing original descriptions for hundreds, or perhaps thousands of products, will take time and investment, but this will have a significant SEO benefit.
User-generated content such as reviews is a great way of sourcing relevant, unique content, but resources will need to be allocated to moderating this content.
The more information you can give your customers about a product, the more confident they will feel about making a purchase. Don’t overdo it, but make sure you’re providing the information customers will expect in a clear, accessible format.
Sales-focused content written by a talented copywriter, framed by clear calls to action, will increase conversions, and consistently high-quality copy will enhance the credibility of your brand.
Killer content needs to work on a number of different levels. An m-commerce site will need to balance user-experience, SEO and conversion optimisation in order for true awesomeness to be achieved. If the people building the site understand how these things fit together, you’re onto a good thing.
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