July 3, 2013, 12:09 PM

Dial M for mobile

Speakers, exhibitors and attendees buzzed about responsive web design at IRCE.

One of the hottest mobile commerce topics at the 2013 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition last month was responsive web design. That's the technique that enables a retailer to use one set of web content and one code base to render a single site differently to match any device's screen size and shape. It's the alternative to building an m-commerce site for smartphones and a tablet-optimized site, in addition to a conventional site for consumers using personal computers.

"Going responsive versus a traditional m-dot m-commerce site is definitely a trend, and it's not slowing down," said Cheryl Sansonetti, marketing manager at 5th Finger, an exhibitor at IRCE. "Inquiries for m-dot sites have gone down to nearly zero, while interest in responsive has skyrocketed. If you are going to invest in the mobile and tablet audience, responsive is the natural choice."

The approach, she said, requires less maintenance, lets a retailer build its search engine ranking for a single site as opposed to several and avoids "deep-linking failures." Deep linking failures occur, for example, when a mobile search engine result for a page deep within a site, such as a product page, leads to the desktop version of the page or an error page instead of the mobile-optimized page.

5th Finger announced at IRCE its launch of a responsive site for environmentally friendly products manufacturer and e-retailer Seventh Generation Inc. using the vendor's hybrid responsive approach, which creates a responsive site for tablets and smartphones and leaves the desktop site intact. The vendor said it costs around $300,000 to build a conventional responsive site that includes the desktop and about $100,000 to build a hybrid responsive site.

"With one build, we've created a device-agnostic experience for the consumer," said Reid Greenberg, director of digital strategy and e-commerce at Seventh Generation. "With devices multiplying it just made sense for us to have an experience that renders great on any device."

But most retailers in mobile commerce today operate a separate m-commerce site, not a responsive site. These retailers are moving beyond building and into optimizing, said Greg Schmitzer, CEO of Mad Mobile, an m-commerce technology vendor that exhibited at IRCE.

"Retailers are realizing the importance of post-launch for mobile commerce sites," Schmitzer said. "To win at mobile, retailers must dedicate resources to analyze trends, test layouts and improve conversion rates and average order values, just like they do on the desktop."

On the subject of m-commerce sites, IRCE exhibitor Affiliate Window, which runs affiliate networks in the United States and United Kingdom that get 22.3% of their traffic from mobile devices, said it talked with several retailers at the conference about a mobile problem that routinely pops up.

"We highlighted the importance of ensuring that the appropriate tracking is in place on the mobile site so affiliate partners are accurately rewarded for driving traffic that generates a sale," said Alex Forsch, U.S. country manager at Affiliate Window. "It is crucial that this is implemented—without it, retailers will see their partners move elsewhere as they will be missing out on key commissions."



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