June 26, 2014, 11:34 AM

mShopper infuses its m-commerce platform with responsive design

Version 4.0 of mShopper’s mobile commerce platform features responsive design techniques that retailers can use to serve sites to consumers on mobile devices of varying shapes and sizes. In tests, conversion rates are up 50%.

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Mobile commerce technology provider mShopper today launched the fourth version of its mStores platform, which features responsive design techniques and enables retailers to customize the look and layout of their responsive sites for tablets and smartphones from a web-based dashboard.

Version 4.0 of mStores creates a responsive design site specifically for tablets and smartphones, separate from a retailer client’s site for desktop PCs. When a mobile consumer requests a page from an mShopper site, the mStores platform first detects the mobile device’s screen size and operating system. It then formats site content into a version of the site that fits that device. This is what’s known as hybrid responsive design, as opposed to pure responsive design, which sends all data for all versions of a site in one big package to a mobile device where the web browser extracts what is needed to build a site for that device.

In the case of mShopper’s new hybrid responsive design sites, for example, a smartphone shopper on the home page of a retailer’s site might swipe a single tile to toggle through product categories in one location. But for a tablet shopper at the same retailer, the mShopper platform will display multiple product category tiles in an expanded row, rather than hiding multiple tiles behind the single tile and require toggling due to the space constraints of a smartphone.

However, many mShopper clients may not wish to serve responsive sites to tablets because their standard desktop PC site is performing well on tablets, says mShopper CEO and founder David Gould. With that in mind, the new version of the platform includes a slider tool in its web-based dashboard that a retailer can use to adjust the percentage of traffic being directed to each of three ranges of tablet sizes. That way, the retailer can test the performance of its responsive site against its desktop site across several tablet customer segments, Gould explains.

“For example, many retailers have higher conversion rates with tablet shoppers than with desktop shoppers, so they might not want to redirect 100% of their tablet traffic,” he says. “But it might make sense to redirect 10% and then see what the analytics show.” Or, perhaps users of Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire tablet will prefer the responsive site, while users of Microsoft Corp.’s laptop-like Surface tablet prefer the standard desktop site. A retailer can adjust how its traffic redirects accordingly, using those devices’ screen sizes, Gould says.

In preliminary tests with retailer clients, mStores 4.0 raised conversion rates by nearly 50% over the conversion rates when those clients used the previous mStores 3.0, Gould says. And cart completion rates are up, too, he says: With version 4.0, about 25% of consumers who add an item to a cart complete the transaction, compared with 15% in version 3.0.

Those stats come alongside a roughly 40% decrease in the average number of page views per shopping session, from about 6 to below 4, Gould says. This is in large part because of the responsive sites’ universal navigation and search tools, which slide out from the left of the screen and thus do not require a new page view. Gould says mShopper created version 4.0 with the idea of a consumer never having to press the Back button on her mobile web browser. For instance, even on the final page of checkout, she can tap to review details and edit her order in a pop-up overlay rather than by returning to an earlier page. The checkout process is down to three pages from five and includes thumbnail images of items that have been added to the cart.

Another change to the mobile platform includes a focus on large images and less text. “Our research shows it’s pictures that sell products,” Gould says.

Retailers can also use the platform dashboard to adjust hundreds of aspects of the color, design, look and layout of each part of each page in their responsive sites without having to program anything, Gould says. New features available in version 4.0 include a GPS store locator, custom faceted search and a search tool that appears as a magnifying glass icon at the top of every page.

Launching a new mShopper site takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days, with a set-up fee that starts around $500 for smaller clients, Gould says. A retailer needs to provide a data feed of its products and product attributes to populate the responsive pages. Monthly software fees, typically based on a commission for each sale, start around $50 per month, Gould says, though some clients prefer to negotiate a flat fee.

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