February 10, 2010, 12:00 AM

Mobile demand means retailers need quick-loading mobile sites, SkyMall says

Demand is straining wireless networks, and complex web pages will strain shoppers’ patience, says Jay Scannell of SkyMall, which operates a mobile site and mobile app. Retailers must take this into account in their site design when going mobile, he says.

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In recent years, more consumers have been wanting access to the Internet from their mobile devices as the number of smartphones in use continues to jump, especially since the launch of the iPhone in June 2007. This has put a strain on some wireless telecommunications carriers-and a strain on the patience of many consumers.

The more traffic there is on the wireless networks, the more time it can take for a page to download. And this, some retailers in m-commerce and mobile experts say, means merchants have to at least consider creating mobile-optimized sites.

“While you can render a complete e-commerce site on many smartphones, by the time you load just the home page, you’ve already lost some customers. So it’s important to understand what is going on with the carriers and apply that understanding to the design of your site,” says Jay Scannell, vice president of information technology at SkyMall Inc. “You may say that your customers are really edgy and tech-savvy and want what’s slick and cool, but they will expect a good customer experience that is consistent, and you’ll face many challenges there if you depend on your e-commerce site in the mobile channel.”

Scannell will be speaking at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference, Feb. 15-17 in Orlando, FL, in a session entitled Upward mobility: How to make your site mobile.

“You absolutely have to have a mobile-optimized experience if you expect to do business in the mobile channel,” Scannell says. “But it’s not just optimizing your existing e-commerce site.”

Retailers, depending on the kind of customer traffic coming to their e-commerce site from mobile devices, may need to create a mobile-optimized site from the ground up, Scannell says. There may be 50 elements on an e-commerce site home page, he explains, but all those elements may not be relevant to a customer in the mobile channel. And the navigation, he adds, is not the same on a mobile device as it is on a desktop or laptop.

“All of these things need to be rethought,” he says. “You can leverage what you do in the e-commerce space, but you need to look at elements in an independent fashion.”

In this example, Scannell suggests reviewing these 50 elements, the features and functions of the page, and choosing the five most important to see what just those five would look like, then figure out if more elements are needed to put those five in context.

“Then you start to build your mobile design from there,” he says. “As devices get better and the carriers do a better job handling demand, then it will be just like has been the case in e-commerce; it will evolve, and you’ll be able to evolve your design with the times.”


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