April 30, 2014, 3:21 PM

When a mobile site beats a responsive design site

Web-only retailer BeddingStyle.com has unveiled an m-commerce site for smartphones, built with m-commerce platform provider Unbound Commerce. The merchant’s site manager says going with a standalone mobile site was much quicker and more cost-effective than building a responsive design site. And the merchant did not need a tablet site, he adds.

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“Once I saw I could have everything I was looking for in a mobile site, the choice was easy between a mobile site and a responsive design site,” the e-retailer's site manager says.

Like most retailers new to mobile commerce, BeddingStyle.com was inspired to make the leap by simple math. Today, smartphones account for 18% of total web traffic, up 100% year over year, and tablets account for 22% of total traffic, up 35% year over year, the web-only retailer reports. BeddingStyle.com can ill afford to have 18% of its customers pinching and zooming and swiping their way through its full desktop site on a tiny smartphone, a poor mobile shopping experience that leads to site abandonment, retailers successful in m-commerce today say.

So BeddingStyle.com sought mobile commerce expertise from a vendor and decided on Unbound Commerce, which has built hundreds of m-commerce sites for smartphones as well as tablet-optimized sites, smartphone apps, tablet apps and in-store kiosks for retailers including Monster Cables, Shoe Carnival, Rockport, The Finish Line Inc., Miller Coors, The New England Patriots and Cavenders.

“As we watched smartphone traffic increase dramatically, we wanted to deliver the best possible mobile experience,” says Peter Roman, site manager at BeddingStyle.com. “Smartphone behavior is different, and a dedicated mobile site allows us to serve our growing smartphone audience with an experience worthy of our brand. Just shrinking our e-commerce site down to fit was not an option.”

What was an option, though, was building a responsive design site, which typically uses one code base, one set of web content and one URL structure to serve up versions of the same site that optimally fit the screen sizes of whatever device is requesting a page. But BeddingStyle.com decided responsive design was not the best fit.

“Being able to build a mobile site using our existing data was very appealing,” Roman says. “We leveraged the work we’d already done to create the desktop site, repurposing it for a smaller screen. The process to build a mobile site is much more cost-effective than that for a responsive design site, and the speed at which a mobile site can be launched is an added bonus. I wanted to quickly address the needs of our growing mobile customer base, and the m-commerce site delivered the look, functionality, timeframe and cost I felt most comfortable with.”

Roman says he was impressed with the design, features and functions Unbound Commerce could incorporate in an m-commerce site. “Once I saw I could have everything I was looking for in a mobile site, the choice was easy between a mobile site and a responsive design site,” Roman says. Roman declines to reveal the costs to build the m-commerce site.

A responsive design site would also have created an optimized version of the site for tablets, which BeddingStyle.com does not offer. But Roman says the e-retailer does not need one because the conversion rate for the desktop site served on tablets is comparable to the conversion rate for the desktop site on desktops. There was a significant difference with the conversion rate on smartphones, which is why the e-retailer focused its mobile optimization efforts there, Roman says. He declines to reveal exact conversion rates.

BeddingStyle.com has no plans for a special tablet site, but says that moving forward if the merchant plans to make changes to the desktop site, it first will consider how changes will affect shoppers on tablets and then take appropriate actions to ensure everything works well for shoppers on tablets.

Follow Bill Siwicki, Internet Retailer’s managing editor, mobile commerce, at @IRmcommerce.

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