I’m writing this post on a laptop, but there’s a good chance you’re not reading it on one. The shift to mobile has profound consequences for merchants. Recent research estimates that almost half of online retail sales in the seven largest EU markets will happen on mobile devices by 2018. In the next three years, phone and tablet commerce in the UK alone is expected to grow just over 50 percent. For retailers, then, the question isn’t whether to design “mobile-first,” it’s how.
In the early days of mobile commerce, merchants built specialized mobile sites to accommodate the tiny screens and slow connections of early smartphones. This approach made sure that consumers had tolerable experiences on mobile devices—but special mobile sites were difficult to maintain and often frustrating for consumers who wanted to make actual purchases.
As mobile devices have become more powerful, retailers have taken better approaches to mobile commerce. Some have developed standalone apps, which offer the most polished mobile experiences. But for most customers, a website will be the first online point of contact with a retailer—and it’s crucial to get it right. We work with Digital River customers to produce responsive websites, which adapt to optimize a user’s experience on any device, from a desktop display to the tiniest wearable. Responsive sites are easier to maintain than mobile-only sites, reach more users than standalone apps, and provide a consistent experience for consumers, no matter what devices they’re using—or where.
But in 2015, consistency is being challenged. Now and in the future, retailers must provide intelligently inconsistent experiences. Your website shouldn’t present iPhone cases to someone who’s shopping on an Android phone—and it should offer in-store options to a customer who is inside your physical store. Now, retailers can take advantage of analytics and onboard sensors to generate mobile experiences that adapt to the contexts in which mobile users are encountering them. This is the pathway to the future – is your company prepared for the journey?