Insider's Guide to IRCE: A responsive design

Responsive web design is arguably the most important subject in mobile commerce today.

Bill Siwicki

An increasing number of retailers are turning to the responsive design technique, which uses one code base and one set of web content to render a single site that custom fits any device's screen. That saves a retailer having to build and maintain separate sites for desktops, tablets and smartphones.

But there is more than one way to embark on responsive design, says Brendan Falkowski, founder of Gravity Department, a web strategy and design firm that specializes in responsive design sites for web retailers. He'll detail the two main ways to approach responsive design in the can't-miss IRCE mobile commerce workshop session, "Two Approaches to Responsive Web Design: Pure and Hybrid."

In brief, pure responsive design sends all data required to build all versions of a site in one package and lets the consumer's web browser format each web page to the device. With hybrid responsive, the e-retailer's servers determine the content needed to build a site for a particular device and only send that data.

"RESS [responsive design plus server-side components] is a hybrid technique that blends the best of client-side and server-side rendering of a site," Falkowski explains. "But keep in mind that RESS is an enhancement. The core of any hybrid site with RESS-driven components is still pure responsive design."

The web and responsive design are omnichannel commerce's long-term foundation, Falkowski says. "As more retailers catch up with consumer behaviors, the novelty of device-specific experiences will wane and not be differentiating. If you have the resources to build separate web or app experiences, it won't hurt—but the golden ticket is making the transition between them seamless for customers."

Another can't-miss mobile commerce session is "Mobile From 360 Degrees: Putting Mobile at the Center of Everything." In this session, Richard Cohene, director of marketing at Beyond the Rack, a flash-sale apparel e-retailer that's No. 59 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Mobile 500, will explain how the merchant puts mobile at the center of all of its commerce and marketing initiatives.

In July 2012, when Beyond The Rack launched its m-commerce site for smartphones, mobile web sales from smartphones and tablets accounted for 8% of total web sales. Today, with the mobile-focused strategy that now includes a tablet-optimized site, mobile web sales account for 35% of web sales. After Beyond The Rack debuted its iPhone and iPad apps in December 2013, mobile app sales quickly grew to account for 12% of online sales, bringing mobile sales to 47% of web sales. Mobile-optimized e-mails and app-based push notifications help drive mobile sales.

"Looking at mobile from 360 degrees is much more than just building a mobile site or only worrying about smartphones, it means looking at how mobile impacts the entire business," Cohene says. "We plan strategy at a high level but then drill down to look at every instance where a mobile device touches the business and optimize that experience for smartphones and tablets."

Bill Siwicki has been reporting mobile commerce since its earliest days and leads Internet Retailer's coverage of all things mobile-related. He has covered every IRCE.

Highlighted Sessions
Mobile from 360 Degrees: Putting Mobile at the Center of Everything Friday, June 13, 9:45-10:15 a.m.
Two Approaches to Responsive Web Design: Pure and Hybrid Friday, June 13, 1:45-2:30 p.m.


Beyond the Rack, Brendan Falkowski, m-commerce, May 2014 Magazine, mobile commerce, responsive design, responsive design variations, Richard Cohene