March 30, 2011, 4:40 PM

Is your site too flashy?

As more consumers surf with their smartphones, retailers should think twice about Flash.

Before we begin, a brief newsflash:

In March, Gilt Groupe reported that 4% of its sales stemmed from the iPad.

In February, one retailer, wishing to remain anonymous, volunteered its web log to Forrester Research Inc., who in turn shared it with Internet Retailer. 46.5% of all mobile page views came from the iPad, the retailer said. 33.1% stemmed from the iPhone and 3.2% came from the iPod Touch. That means 82.8% of all mobile page views are coming from an Apple device.

Online travel site Expedia.com recently reported that about 4% of its visitors hailed from mobile devices.

At retailer Music Factory Direct, 5% of total online visitors now come from a mobile device and mobile sales account for 5% of total sales.

What’s this mean? Retailers should slim down their use of Adobe Flash.

As mobile traffic to retail sites grows, retailers must consider all the new devices accessing their web sites, mobile sites and apps. Many of those mobile devices are made by Apple. Apple doesn’t play nicely with Flash. In fact, it doesn’t display it at all on its popular mobile devices.

For the three months ending in March, the number of smartphone subscribers rose 8% according to comScore Inc.  Devices using Apple’s iOS mobile platform, according to comScore, accounted for 24.7% of those smartphones. Then you have the iPad. Apple sold 15 million of them between April and December 2010 and an estimated 500,000 units of its iPad 2 the first weekend after its launch. Those tablets don’t like Flash either.

Apple’s corner on the mobile market makes a solid case for taking Flash off your web site—or at the very least off important pages such as the home page or product pages. The good news is that there’s an emerging Flash replacement. HTML5 is the latest version of the HTML language used to create web sites. It renders on Apple devices and works well in the mobile realm as a replacement for Flash-based images like graphical hero shots that e-retailers use on e-commerce sites.

Hotel booking site Kiwi Collection had to provide mobile functionality to enable mobile users to check their booking status and complete bookings on the go from their phones. It used vendor Mobify to implement HTML5 for its mobile site and create a search box at the top of the screen, buttons that link to more information about Kiwi Collection, contact information and hero shots.

If you do have a mobile site that doesn’t use Flash, great! But, then you’ve still got some 15.5 million and growing iPad users. Those consumers will likely access your traditional web site from their tablets, because web sites render just fine on the device which has roughly the screen size of a netbook.

If you don’t have a mobile site, get one. But also, take Flash off important pages on your traditional site. 29% of online consumers have made a purchase via their mobile devices and 48% have used their devices to browse and research products, according to an Oracle/ATG study. Until you can give those consumers a fully optimized mobile site, at least make sure they can see what they need to buy.

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