Get Serious About Responsive Design

Susan Wall

My colleague’s teenage daughter won’t order anything that involves making a phone call. Pizza? They better have an online option, and it better be easy to use on a mobile device. If the pizzeria doesn’t offer one, she’ll go elsewhere. And she’s not alone. Today’s hyperconnected consumers — especially Millennials and other young generations — are changing the way people browse and buy.

Mobile has changed shopping in dramatic ways. Consumers who used to either shop online or in-store may now visit your store in person, view the same products online and then park merchandise in a shopping cart from their desktop to buy on their phone while they commute to work.

For retailers, this means responsive design is key. In the not-too-distant past, most content was designed to fit laptop screens. With responsive design, however, the layout adapts to the screen size. It uses a fluid grid that sizes pages in relative units like percentages, rather than absolute units like pixels or points.

Responsive design has been proven to enhance the overall user experience, drive more click-throughs, improve conversion rates, and reduce unsubscribes and spam complaints. Poor design can have serious effects. For example, if an email isn’t optimized for mobile devices, 80% of customers will simply delete it and 30% actually unsubscribe, according to research from email testing company Litmus.

Responsive design is here to stay. Our 2015 survey of 1,012 US consumers found laptop ownership has been falling while smartphone and tablet ownership grew by double digits. Furthermore, 23% of online shoppers ages 18 to 29 said they prefer shopping on a smartphone to other online options. Therefore, if your product is geared for Millennials, consider putting some serious coin behind mobile. Last year, 90% of Millennials said their phones never leave their side.

Here are some other tips to capture today’s mobile shoppers:

1. Ditch the apps.

While they’ve been considered an alternative to responsive design, shoppers typically don’t want to clutter their phone with your apps unless they order from you daily or weekly — think things like coffee or pizza. In our survey, 61% of smartphone users prefer mobile browsers for shopping, compared with 39% who prefer mobile apps.

2. Make cart recovery work.

Consumers often use online shopping carts to transition between devices or view saved items while in-store. In fact, carts per shopper grew 13% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2015, and the overall number of carts created was up 22% globally. With shoppers creating more carts and using them in new ways, it’s crucial to have a cart recovery program in place to encourage as many conversions as possible. However, if that cart recovery program isn’t responsive, you could risk losing out.

3. Optimize design and content.

Your designers and content editors must work across multiple operating systems, browsers, screen sizes, devices and email clients. While there aren’t consistent standards, there are some very basic best practices. Embrace white space, keep headers simple, don’t skimp on high-quality photography and keep copy to a minimum. Less is definitely more in the mobile world. And as tempting as it may seem, don’t hide the unsubscribe button in tiny font. If subscribers have a hard time finding it, they’re more likely to grow frustrated, less likely to open your messages in the future and more likely to report a spam complaint.

4. Test beacon technology.

Some retailers are considering beacon technology or devices to communicate with nearby smart devices via Bluetooth. While some are mulling options, such as pinging shoppers with an offer as they near a store or studying shopper behavior in stores, compelling use cases are rare and this is probably not a must-have for 2016.

Are you convinced of the importance of responsive design? I hope so. All the early (not yet published) research we’re seeing on customer behavior suggests the trend of mobile buying and browsing is intensifying. In fact, it looks like there will be a new frontier in responsive design — accommodating the wearable device.

This post was originally published by Total Retail.


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