Why Ecommerce Sites Need Responsive Design to Drive Customer Value


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According to Pew Research Center, by the end of 2015, 68 percent of adults in the U.S. had a smartphone, and tablet ownership had edged up to 45 percent. It also found that certain segments are nearing a smartphone ownership saturation point — 86 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds own a smartphone, for example.

For ecommerce retailers, the multiplicity of devices means that having a responsive website is no longer optional — it’s the necessary standard. Device-agnostic content, along with the ease of a single code base, gives retailers with responsive websites a versatile point of contact with consumers that is simultaneously “understood” across mobile and desktop devices.

And in a world where competition for fleeting consumer attention is fierce, it’s absolutely vital to make sure that the user experience is the best it can be across every digital touchpoint. Moreover, according to analyst firm Aberdeen Group, responsive ecommerce sites achieve 11 percent more conversions than non-responsive sites.

Understanding the M-commerce User Journey

At the same time, shopping habits are increasingly shifting toward mobile. Demandware’s recent Year in Review study found that mobile visits in December of 2015 accounted for 47 percent of total visits to their retailers’ sites but only 23 percent of total orders.

There are two trends at play here: the growth in mobile shopping (which is influencing many companies toward a “mobile first, desktop second” approach) and the growth in the complexity of the mobile user journey.

Recent research by eMarketer shows that 79 percent of smartphone owners and 86 percent of tablet owners used their device to research, browse and compare products. In other words, consumers have the means to be much more spontaneous, responding to a need that is felt in the moment, with visitors experiencing sites across a variety of devices: on mobile phones during the morning commute, desktops during the workday, tablets in the evening and, yes, on the mobile phone in the bathroom anytime throughout the day.

Yet as Demandware’s review clearly shows, mobile browsing often is still an upper funnel activity, and despite the consumer love affair with mobile, average conversion rates are just 23 percent. The primary objective for any ecommerce practitioner should be converting visits to sales by helping the user make a purchase quickly and easily; so why the discrepancy between visits and conversion on mobile?

Optimizing Content

Simply stated, it can be a lengthy, costly and challenging process to design content that’s optimized for each device type. Effective device-specific content requires a lot of iterations and bandwidth to code.

First, there are user experience considerations. When visiting on mobile, what does a user really need to see? What do they want to do? Then there’s the need to resize images, adjust text size and line breaks, and even change hyperlinks. Importantly, maintaining a simple and short path to purchase is critical.

Most retailers simply can’t achieve high-performing mobile content because of bandwidth, limited skill sets, a lack of adequate technology, or capital constraints (aka money).

Yet the faster new content can be previewed across devices, in the development process, then the easier (and thus cheaper) it is to optimize and finalize that content. And the more regularly a site’s content is updated, the more it will generate repeat visits and revenue.

Making Content Shoppable Builds Engagement

Engaging, shoppable content is one clear way to solve the mobile shopping problem.

Effective shoppable content contains rich imagery that inspires and HTML5 animations that grab attention immediately so that users, with a single click or touch, are drawn into an efficient, transactional user journey.

Moreover, by making key visual elements ecommerce-enabled, visitors can click on the products they see and shop without interruption, ideally through a quick view (on a desktop) or simple “add to cart” functionality (on a mobile device). A “buy now” button combined with a well-executed product image will take the user straight to the checkout, for example, shortening the path to purchase. And for the time-constrained, fickle consumer, the shorter the path to purchase, the more likely it is that she will actually buy.

When implemented properly on a product hero image, a homepage or in buying guides, retailers often will see consumer engagement, time on site and conversion increase.

A nimble shoppable content platform also will cut down on the development time required for device-optimized content. With tools that allow drag-and-drop creation and collaboration with others, merchandisers and marketers can easily preview an experience across multiple device types and optimize it themselves without any agency involvement or custom coding.

The result is a reduction in the cycle from creative design to publishing, which can take just days or even hours rather than weeks and months — a significant advantage in the ecommerce sector where updating sites often is a consumer requirement.

Mobile Optimized Shoppable Content Can Drive Higher Conversions

More importantly, the benefits to your organization and your consumers extend beyond the internal process improvements or simple engagement metrics. For retailers who successfully combine the elements of responsive design and inspiring graphics and images with short, simple paths to purchase, mobile conversion rates often can exceed 30 percent — which is 25 percent higher than the Demandware Year in Review study.

Thus, with the right approach to shoppable content, retailers can create and publish immersive experiences, compelling the user to make a purchase right in the moment that they feel a need. Today, that’s across multiple devices, anywhere, anytime.

Brian Rigney
As Zmags' CEO, Brian has over twenty years' experience leading high performing, entrepreneurial teams in launching new businesses and bringing innovative new products to market. Prior to Zmags, Brian was vice president sales and business development for CashStar, where he led the sales and business development strategy. He also is the founder and CEO of BlueTarp Financial, Inc., a breakthrough information and payments company for the construction industry. Brian has a bachelor's degree from Colby College and a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh.


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