October 10, 2012, 8:38 AM

Orbitz spreads its ‘mobile magic’ throughout a redesigned m-commerce site

An executive with the travel firm gives a before-and-after look at MMCF 2012.

Lead Photo

Chris Brown speaking this week at MMCF 2012.

Sometimes Orbitz customers using the travel company’s first-generation mobile commerce site would land on a page with the following message: “Our mobile magic hasn’t spread to this page yet, but you can still view it on the full site.” A click on the text took users to the full desktop web site page on their smartphones—which is not easy to navigate on the small screen of a phone.

That was 2010. Today, after a comprehensive redesign, there’s no such thing as a non-optimized page on the Orbitz m-commerce site—and with good reason.

“In 2010, mobile was a percent or two of our business. In 2012, 20% of our hotel booking comes through mobile,” said Chris Brown, vice president of product strategy at Orbitz. “Mobile is becoming a substantial part of the way we sell travel, opening up new doors and new use cases.”

Brown was the featured speaker Tuesday at the 2012Internet Retailer Mobile Marketing & Commerce Forum in San Diego. His address was entitled “Ready for a redesign? Learning from what you have to make your site better.”

Not delivering a mobile-optimized page for everything a consumer might be seeking is the primary signal it’s time for a mobile redesign, Brown said. A poor conversion rate is another sign, he added. In mobile’s early days, he said, Orbitz executives were not sure what to expect in terms of consumer conversion. “But as we started getting into it we came up with the premise that they should convert equal to or more than our desktop solution.”

So Orbitz had a team of in-house developers build the new mobile commerce site based on the same web framework as its desktop e-commerce site, which ensured every page would be optimized, Brown said. And the web framework was global, covering all of the international sites Orbitz operates, so the travel firm was able to easily go mobile on a global scale, Brown explained. Using the web framework also helped reduce latency on the mobile web, substantially speeding up page load times, he added.

The end result for the new mobile web site is a 110% increase in visits, a 145% increase in the conversion rate, and four times the number of transactions compared with the original mobile commerce site, Brown said. “Our consumers have responded and are really pleased with the net result,” he told MMCF 2012 attendees.

But Brown is not getting complacent. He has his eye on the horizon for signs that it may be time for a third iteration of the mobile commerce site. “If your approach can no longer thrill customers, then you’re ready for a 3.0,” he said.

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