6 tips for a seamless and fast mobile shopping experience

By Dan Franklin, Segment Manager Commerce, EdgeCast

As of early December, Christmas sales were looking modest. Right after Black Friday, ShopperTrek reported that even though the immediate post-Thanksgiving sales were up 2.3 percent from last year, it’s still predicted that foot traffic for the whole season will be down. Where has that traffic gone? Online.

Adobe says more than $1 billion was spent online on Thanksgiving Day alone, and eBay sales are estimated to be 30-35 percent higher than last year. According to Walker Sands, only 1 percent of US consumers with Internet access don’t shop online.

Mobile shopping is the new mainstream

And, more and more, that ecommerce is moving from computers to mobile devices. Mobile has become a more comfortable and regular place for people to shop. According to Millward Brown Digital, mobile shoppers are actually visiting more websites, on average, than people using PCs. Mobile commerce isn’t some niche anymore; it’s mainstream and certainly the future of e-commerce.

Last Christmas, Wal-Mart reported that 40 percent of all visits to its online store that month came from mobile devices. Estimates for this shopping season top 50 percent. We’re way past the early-adopter phase. So the question is how to make that mobile shopping experience excellent.

For a mobile commerce experience to be as satisfying as one that takes place on a full-size computer, sellers need to make sure the mobile shopping experience is both seamless and fast.

Create a seamless experience

Here are three tips to make sure your mobile users will have a seamless shopping experience:

1. Build a Responsive site.

By adhering to Responsive guidelines, you can increase the chance that your store will render acceptably on the default browsers in multiple smartphone and tablet platforms. You do have easier access to more system resources if you offer your store as a native app, but that means building a new app for every platform. You don’t know for sure which platforms will be long-term successes. Anyone who built a native online store for the BlackBerry is likely regretting it now.

2. Keep images to a minimum.

Chances are you do need images of products to sell them, but be clever about which elements on a page must render as images and which get the job done as text-only.

3. Be consistent.

On a small screen, any changes in presentation across parts of a site can make it hard for mobile shoppers to know where they are. Customers who are lost can’t buy anything.

Improve speed

There are three areas to think about if you’re focusing on speed:

1. Bandwidth and latency.

You can’t control how fast a customer’s Internet connection is, but you can help the customer get the most out of the speed she has. For one thing, you can make sure that images and resources are as close to the customer as possible. And prefetching, using idle browser time to make an educated guess about what the customer might want to see next is a reliable and effective way to make every millisecond and every kilobyte of bandwidth count.

2. Image size.

Oversized images can transmit slowly even on desktop PCs connected to broadband; they can bring the experience to a crawl on a mobile device that needs only a smaller image. Compressing assets and delivering responsive images lower file size and make it easier for the customer to get information about what is being presented even before the entire image loads.

3. JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets.

Scripts take longer to do their work than straight HTML code; large JavaScript coding can slow down a site dramatically. But blocking JavaScript leads to a performance hit, too. Conditional JavaScript loading gives a store much more control over which scripts can run and which ones can’t, speeding customer experience. Similarly, complex CSS makes both sides wait longer than they need to; nesting and manual review can keep CSS down to the minimum necessary. Prioritize the critical CSS to load first.

Mobile devices — smartphones, tablets and whatever is next — are quickly becoming the way people shop online and a responsive and highly performing experience for them is now a must-have.

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