Offering consumers on smartphones a choice: Mobile site or desktop site

Collectibles merchant Swarovski was anxious to launch a mobile commerce web site last year. To hasten the process, it launched a mobile site without mobile checkout as an interim solution. It offers some, but not all, customers on smartphones a choice between the mobile site and the desktop site. Swarovski has its reasons, offering other anxious retailers food for thought.

Bill Siwicki

In September 2013, Swarovski, a merchant best known for its crystal collectibles, debuted its first mobile web site. However, when a customer shopping the mobile site on a smartphone touches the Checkout button, she is sent to the Swarovski desktop web site to complete her order. Swarovski wanted to get a mobile site up quickly, so it pushed off optimizing the checkout process for mobile. That’s in the works: Mobile checkout will launch May 20.

Swarovski, however, does something quite unusual in mobile commerce. It sends some smartphone users directly to the mobile-optimized site and others to a window that gives them the choice of either the mobile site or the desktop site. The only other merchant Internet Retailer has observed handling shoppers on smartphones in this manner is HalloweenCostumes.com.

Shoppers on smartphones who manually type Swarovski.com into their mobile web browsers are sent directly to the chain retailer’s mobile web site. Swarovski views these shoppers as browsers, who may not be intent on buying right away, and thus says the mobile site, which is easier to navigate on a smartphone than a desktop site, is the right venue for them to explore Swarovski.

But the other primary way shoppers on smartphones wind up on Swarovski.com is through links contained in search engine results, namely Google and Bing results. For these shoppers, the retailer displays a window that reads, “You are using a mobile device. Would you like to go to the mobile site?” Touching OK sends a shopper to the mobile site, touching Cancel to the desktop site.

Swarovski views these shoppers as having a high interest in the product or type of product they searched. So Swarovski gives these shoppers the choice because if they intend to buy, currently they'll have to check out on desktop pages. So since these consumers are likely to buy the product they're searching for, offering them a consistent desktop experience makes sense as an interim solution, the merchant says.

25% of total web traffic stems from smartphones, Swarovski says.

“This decision was driven by the fact that at the moment we offer a mobile site, but no mobile checkout,” explains Lea Sonderegger, director of Swarovski.com. “However, we still wanted to provide our consumers coming from deep links the option to enter the desktop site in order to buy their desired product. This will change with the introduction in May of our mobile checkout, when all customers on smartphones will be redirected to the mobile commerce site. For customers on smartphones, the shopping experience on a mobile site is much more seamless and enjoyable than a desktop site on a smartphone.”

It makes sense to offer shoppers a choice as part of this interim set-up, says Brian Klais, CEO of Pure Oxygen Mobile, a mobile marketing and mobile search engine optimization firm.

"But directing mobile searchers to smartphone-optimized pages more consistently would please Googlebot and improve the mobile shopping experience," Klais adds.

And that's exactly what Swarovski will do beginning May 20, when it launches mobile checkout.

However, Swarovski might completely change the way it handles shoppers on mobile devices. Sonderegger says the merchant somewhere down the line may redesign and launch a responsive design site, which uses one code base and one set of web content to render versions of a single site that optimally fit any device’s screen.

“Offering mobile checkout will be a great enhancement for the shopping experience of our mobile consumers,” she says. “But when we were deciding on the technology for our mobile site, we were analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of responsive design. At the time of the evaluation in 2013, we felt that responsive design was still too young and that a standalone mobile-optimized web site would deliver a more robust experience for consumers on smartphones. For a future re-launch, though, we will definitely consider using responsive design.”

Swarovski also offers a mobile commerce app for consumers, as well as a B2B app.


B2B app, Brian Klais, HalloweenCostumes.com, Lea Sonderegger, m-commerce, Mobile, mobile commerce, mobile web site, Pure Oxygen Mobile, Swarovski