Responsive Design versus Dedicated Mobile Store – What is the Right Decision for your Business?

We’re often asked the question from our clients, should my business have a responsive website or should we invest in a dedicated mobile store?

Here are a few facts to consider.

2014 saw mobile users surpass desktop users as the largest source of Internet use.

[i] 15% of these users make purchases using their mobile devices and this is predicted to grow strongly in 2015 and beyond.

[ii] Google is beginning to implement an indicator to tell users whether a website is mobile user friendly or not, this has far reaching implications for businesses.

Mobile friendly websites are now considered pretty much essential for most B2C industries. The stats we see from some of our ecommerce clients also indicate there is now a greater need for wholesalers and cash and carry’s to focus more on offering a better mobile experience for their customers.

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Williams Commerce Client Sectors 2015 versus 2014

Industry Mobile Traffic inJan-2015 % Transactions on mobile
Beauty (B2B) 28% (+715% vs. LY) 12% (+32% vs. LY)
Leisure/Sports (B2C) 23% (+41% vs. LY) 22% (+34% vs. LY)
Food/Drink (B2B) 27% (+35% vs. LY) 8% (+221% vs. LY)
Homewares (B2B) 21% (+95% vs. LY) 5% (n/a)
*Note % of transactions is influenced by site changes and can be from an initial small base.

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In the table above, there are significant increases in mobile traffic year on year and the number of transactions on mobile are on the increase. Whilst bulk purchases are more complex and time consuming, the facts however show an increasing appetite from trade businesses to browse and even place their trade orders via mobile and tablet devices.

As more people begin to do their business on their mobile phones or tablets, there’s no doubt it is now more important than ever to ensure that your website is fully functional for these users.

So, the next choice for many businesses to consider is; Do you want your website to have a responsive design, or have its own dedicated mobile site? Both options have their pros and cons and we’ve outlined a few of them below.

Firstly, a bit about responsive design web design. Its an approach to laying out and coding a website to ensure it provides an optimal viewing experience on multiple devices including desktop, tablet and mobile phones. One example to demonstrate how responsive web design works, on a desktop computer, the navigation bar appears horizontally, but when viewed on mobile, the navigation style re-orders to appear as a vertical stack offering categories or buttons.

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There are a number of positive benefits to responsive web design;

It’s a cost effective solution for many. Creating a single website obviously costs less than two separate websites.
Only one CMS (content management system) to manage.
The design is flexible and fluid and adapts to fit across a wide range of devices. It’s pretty clever stuff.
Done well, responsive web design offers a pretty good user experience on multiple devices.
Responsive designed sites have one URL and the same HTML, making it efficient for Google to crawl and index. So in theory there are SEO benefits to having a single responsive designed website.
Speaking of SEO, you only need to manage one Search Marketing campaign with a responsive designed website.

There are however a couple of disadvantages;

Creating responsive websites are challenging and complex. There are dozens of devices and versions and browser’s compatibility to get responsive design functioning perfectly on. Done poorly, it can certainly result in a negative mobile experience for users.
Loading time can be slightly longer on mobile devices for responsive design.
Essentially, responsive design offers the same user journey as desktop, it simply scales the online experience to a smaller screen. It’s not truly optimised for mobile and does not meet the needs of the mobile environment, resulting in disappointing outcomes for consumers and marketers.
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There’s no doubt responsive design is a very useful strategy, but it’s not always the ultimate solution for a business.

The case for a dedicated mobile site is becoming increasingly strong. Out of the 100 top-traffic websites, including the likes of John Lewis and Argos, 83 have their own dedicated mobile sites.

There are arguments now to say a website should be designed with a mobile-first approach. The design is completely optimised first for mobile and from there the designer will evolve and build up the design to suit the desktop experience.

The benefits ecommerce mobile websites can offer are plenty;

Speed. Lightning-fast loading speed is mission critical and mobile sites (done properly!) are very quick and can help result in higher conversion rates.
Simple mobile ecommerce sites with efficient navigation will help solve customer’s appetite for getting results urgently.
Enables businesses to adopt a targeted mobile marketing strategy, which can help maximise revenues and profitability.
Consumers are more likely to share content via mobile versus desktop.
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When making a decision around whether to go responsive or mobile there is a key question you need to try and answer.

Are the top activities done on a desktop the same as those on mobile?

To illustrate this point, airlines for example may see visitors accessing their mobile site are already likely to have purchased a ticket and are now interested in checking in, viewing flight status or itineraries. Compare this with the desktop site that places emphasis on new flight bookings and promotional offers. (source venturebeat.com)

This is an example where there is a definite need to differentiate the mobile and desktop experience. Other industries however may find that users behaviour on desktop is similar to mobile and therefore responsive web design will be satisfactory.

In summary, whilst the pressure is on to cater to the needs of your mobile users, understanding how your customers will interact with desktop and mobile is a good first step before making a decision on which route to choose. However for those businesses who may not yet have access to those types of insights, we’ve seen many start-out with a responsive design website and then choose to evolve the mobile experience as they learn more about their customers online behaviours.

Either way, optimising for mobile represents a great opportunity to grow your business online in 2015.

Leicestershire based Williams Commerce is an award winning and Magento Certified Partner specialising in ecommerce, marketing and technology solutions for customers across a wide range of industries in the UK and internationally. As well as retail we have deep ecommerce and marketing expertise in the B2Bsector. Whether you are an established Internet Retailer or a company taking the first steps into ecommerce, Williams Commerce has the experience, solutions and track record to deliver.

[i] http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics

[ii] http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/opinion/2353616/mobile-now-exceeds-pc-the-biggest-shift-since-the-internet-began

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