August 1, 2013, 3:20 PM

How Beyond the Rack mobilized and quadrupled sales on smartphones

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THE RESULTS: Beyond The Rack launched its mobile-optimized site on July 11, 2012. Key performance indicators for Beyond The Rack shoppers on smartphones before and after the debut of the site paint a vivid picture:

  • Sales: May 2012, $384,000; May 2013, $1.75 million (15% of total revenue)
  • Conversion: May 2012, 0.56%; May 2013, 0.99%
  • Page views per visit: May 2012, 4.8; May 2013, 5.4
  • Bounce rate: May 2012, 42%; May 2013, 31%

The merchant declined to reveal the exact cost, but Mobify says a typical build using adaptive design costs $100,000, plus a monthly fee starting at $495 for smaller organizations.

"The return on investment was there in one month," says Cohene of Beyond The Rack, which today receives about 40% of its traffic from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and 33% of weekday revenue and 41% of weekend revenue from mobile. "Mobile optimization was one of the best investments Beyond The Rack has ever made."


What exactly is HTML5?

There are two ways to look at HTML5, says Kyle Peatt, senior mobile designer at Mobify, a vendor that uses HTML5 in the mobile sites it builds. First, it's a catch-all for newer web technologies, similar to the once-ubiquitous term "Web 2.0."

"HTML5 is an all-encompassing term referring to things such as Cascading Style Sheets 3, or CSS3, and a whole bunch of new browser application programming interfaces, or APIs, all rolled up into HTML5," Peatt says.

It is also a standard web programming language from the web standards-setting body World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, though the HTML5 standard has yet to be finalized.

"It's a new document standard for writing HTML containing new web browser APIs and new ways to interact with mobile web browsers to obtain geo-location for mapping or to auto-fill data fields, play video, create improved animations, drag and drop, store data locally, and generally make mobile web sites more like apps," Peatt says.

Because some elements of HTML5 are finalized and some are not, retailers need to be careful when programming in the language. Peatt recommends the web site, which lists all of the features in HTML5 and CSS3 and offers a rundown of the mobile web browsers that support the features. He also suggests to obtain the free Modernizr tool that enables a retailer to detect if a device has support for HTML5 and CSS3 features.

To accommodate consumers whose browsers cannot handle HTML5, retailers should consider the adaptive design technique known as progressive enhancement, in which a site first detects a device and its capabilities and progressively adds content, features and functions based on the device's capabilities, Peatt says. If HTML5 is not among a device's capabilities, the site does not deliver any HTML5-based features and instead defaults to more basic features.

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