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Up to Speed
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The retailer is doing something right. A recent measure of its m-commerce site response time and availability, compiled by Gomez for Internet Retailer’s newly released Mobile Commerce Data Book, ranks both of the retailer’s m-commerce sites as above average. 4Luggage’s response time averaged 4.6 seconds and DiscountGolfWorld’s came in at 3.31 seconds, better than the average of 5 seconds for all 70 m-commerce sites measured. For availability, 4Luggage posted 97.93% uptime and DiscountGolfWorld 99.78% compared with the average of 96.36% for all sites.
Other vendors see a bull’s-eye in offering services to help mobile merchants add rich content to their sites.
A new feature from Easy2 Technologies Inc., for example, aims to help merchants incorporate videos, 360-degree imagery and interactive image galleries on mobile commerce sites.
The functionality, launched in July, is designed with mobile constraints in mind. For example, if a video is 600 pixels wide, too big for a typical smartphone screen, the company optimizes the video to 200 pixels wide. Or if an image is too big to load quickly, it compresses it. Most important, it avoids using Flash for any rich media applications, as the iPhone and early versions of Android phones do not support the technology, which is often used to display online video.
Where do you come from?
But technology is not the only answer. Managing consumer expectations can also improve satisfaction with mobile sites.
For instance, Baird suggests that retailers set on offering a rich mobile experience direct a shopper to a mobile app if the retailer offers an app that works with that consumer’s smartphone.
“Don’t be afraid to say to a visitor, ‘I see you’re an iPhone user, why don’t you download our iPhone app,’” she says.
Retailers can figure out that a shopper is visiting from an iPhone by looking at something called the user agent, a unique HTML string that identifies the browser connecting with a retailer’s server.
That enables the retailer to tailor the content it offers to the phone the consumer is using, says Vidya Drego, senior customer experience analyst at Forrester Research Inc. For example, a retailer can employ more touchscreen options and graphics when the user agent shows a consumer is coming from a sophisticated iPhone, but keep sites more simple for an older BlackBerry.
The user agent data also can help retailers determine how much data to include in each interaction between the phone and the retailer’s host server, Drego says. For example, a single server call for a phone using Google’s Android operating system could show several product results with images and text, while one for a slower-processing BlackBerry could be pared down.
As retailers work to improve mobile site performance, they can appease visitors in the interim with better communication. When Barneys returns mobile search results, for example, it tells shoppers the number of items it is returning before all the images load. That way, a young woman knows the wait for red pumps is taking awhile because there are 75 varieties.
Drego suggests offering constant status updates. A good example is the mobile site for travel site Kayak.com, Drego says, which uses a progress bar to show how far along it is in returning results for flights and hotels. Another tip: Design pages so that the most crucial information, such as prices and product details, loads first. “Don’t put the most important information in some complex graphic or table that will take several seconds to display,” she says.
Tips like that can help retailers design mobile sites that will load quickly today, and position them to deliver even better performance as mobile technology continues its steady advance.