March 31, 2011, 10:33 AM

Alibris closes the book on high mobile bounce rates with an optimized site

The retailer is using HTML5 in its new mobile site.

Lead Photo

Alibris, a used book e-retailer that sells 120 million items from thousands of sellers worldwide, had a problem. The creators of its e-commerce site didn’t design it for mobile use and that meant there were high bounce rates and low conversion rates when consumers accessed the site via mobile phones.

Alibris, No. 116 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide ,  was looking for a way to expand its e-commerce presence beyond the desktop and onto mobile devices. With mobile web use predicted to outstrip desktop browsing within five years, according to a 2010 report from Morgan Stanley, and with mobile data users numbering over 205 million in the United States, according to International Data Group, Alibris recognized a huge growth opportunity in mobile. But its web site didn’t offer a good mobile experience.

Aiming to change that, Alibris engaged mobile technology vendor Mobify to optimize Alibris.com’s existing look and feel for a broad range of mobile devices. Mobify created a mobile site that would render well on devices using several major mobile operating systems, including Apple Inc.’s iOS that drives the iPhone, Google Inc.’s Android and Palm’s WebOS.

The new site also uses the emerging programming language HTML5 to optimize the retailer’s mobile checkout. The powerful HTML5 is a new version of the HTML programming language, and HTML5 is often used on mobile sites to replace Adobe Flash, which doesn’t render on Apple devices. Through integration with the systems behind the conventional e-commerce site, any content added to the web site also updates the mobile site, saving staff the effort inputting data and uploading product images twice.

The mobile site, which took about three weeks to build, launched just before Thanksgiving. Alibris says it has simplified the browsing and checkout process for mobile users and has seen unique mobile visits increase more than 50-fold, thanks in part to Alibris' marketing for the new mobile site. Since the launch of the mobile site, mobile revenue has more than doubled, the retailer adds.

Additionally, the bounce rate from mobile visitors to the m-commerce site is lower compared with when mobile visitors could only access the conventional e-commerce site. A bounce is when a visitor views only one page on a site and then leaves.

What’s more, the merchants says, mobile conversions are up. Alibris says it is on track to recoup its mobile investment in the next few months.

“The optimized site provides our users a great mobile experience without leaving Alibris,” says Alibris general manager Jeanie Bunker. “We’re doing it for the convenience of our mobile shoppers and our network of 20,000 independent sellers.”

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