December 13, 2012, 10:12 AM

Stella & Dot launches a tablet-optimized site

And the trunk show seller soon will be working on a smartphone site and apps.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The e-retailer's tablet-optimized site.

About 80-90% of Stella & Dot’s traffic comes from what the e-retailer calls “stylists,” individuals who throw trunk show parties and sell Stella & Dot jewelry and accessories to family and friends. The company has observed over the past year that an increasing number of stylists are taking their tablets, mostly iPads, with them to parties. They use the tablets to highlight the whole catalog of products and to take orders then and there, rather than wait until they get home to input orders on their desktop computer.

What’s more, of the 10-20% of traffic to StellaDot.com that comes straight from consumers, 30% is mobile, and 80% of that mobile traffic is from tablets, the e-retailer reports. 90% of the tablet traffic comes from Apple Inc. iPads.

This is why Stella & Dot, working with mobile commerce technology vendor Mobify, has launched a version of its e-commerce site optimized for tablets.

“I would not be surprised if tablet traffic doubles between now and next year,” says Eduardo Frias, chief information officer at Stella & Dot. “Our technology roadmap for next year is heavily laden with smartphone-friendly and tablet-friendly initiatives to keep taking advantage of the boom in tablets and smartphones.”

Frias says the desktop site previously was performing well, generating “a good chunk of revenue,” though he declines to be specific. However, the way in which Stella & Dot was presenting the site to consumers was not as good as it could be, Frias says.

“Some of the navigation was clunky, the buttons were hard to press, we were not taking advantage of all the navigation features and functions of the tablet like swiping,” he says. “We were performing but from an end-user experience perspective it was not the experience we wanted to offer our customers. And the opportunity for increased conversion was tremendous just by focusing on basic blocking and tackling usability and performance issues.”

The tablet site reorients and resizes elements of the home page so that all content Stella & Dot deems most important is “above the fold” on the home screen, meaning a consumer does not need to swipe down to see it. Pages adjust layout appropriately when a consumer switches from holding a tablet in portrait mode to landscape mode. Buttons are significantly bigger. Font sizes are bigger. Drop-down menus are bigger. The e-retailer added a carousel feature to the home page that responds to swiping.

“In general there are things that you can do with fingers that are different than you can do with a mouse,” Frias says of the optimization.

Stella & Dot also optimized performance for the tablet site. “We did not want people feeling they had to wait to enjoy the site more than absolutely necessary,” Frias says.

It removed elements that were purely for a desktop user with a mouse, such as hovering, so that such elements were not part of a page load on the tablets site. Deleting certain elements from pages sped up performance on the tablet site, Frias explains.

The e-retailer also opted to change the way it delivered content. It opted to go with Mobify’s mobile content delivery network after tests showed it delivered better speeds than the content delivery network it uses for the desktop site, which it declines to name. “Through the Mobify content delivery network we found we were getting better response times than just straight out hitting our desktop site from the iPads,” Frias says.

Mobify says the secret to its speed is its open source framework, called Mobify.js, which performs “client-side adaptation.”

“We explain it with a metaphor,” says James Sherrett, Mobify’s vice president of marketing. “Imagine you go to the grocery store. There’s two approaches. You could wander the aisles, picking up items you encounter, and then check out. That takes a long time and costs a lot. Instead of wandering and picking up lots of items, let’s say you start with a list. Then you go to the right places in the store to get just the items you need, grab them quickly and check out. That’s fast and costs less.”

Mobify uses the second approach, which lets developers build an exact shopping list for tablets or smartphones, Sherrett explains.

“As a result, people on their tablets or smartphones get just the items needed in the right order for optimal performance,” he says. “Retina Display images only go to Retina Display devices. Scripts for desktop A/B testing don’t get tacked on to the pages served to tablets or smartphones. The result is very fast speeds for customers both for the initial page load and for in-page actions, like adding an item to a cart or auto-complete of search items, because only the essential elements for that device are loaded.”

The average page load time for Stella & Dot’s tablet site is 3.19 seconds from Vancouver and 1.45 seconds from Washington, D.C., according to a test run today by Mobify for Internet Retailer. That compares with the desktop site loading on average in 5.73 seconds from Vancouver and 3.83 seconds from Washington.

Stella & Dot made a five-figure investment in the tablet-optimized site and expects both average order value and conversion to increase on the new site designed for tablets.

Next up in mobile commerce is smartphones, with an HTML5-based m-commerce site and mobile apps in the works for 2013. HTML5 is an advanced web programming language that allows developers to create mobile sites that look and function like mobile apps; HTML5 can be rendered across every major smartphone platform and mobile web browser.

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