Demystifying Responsive Commerce
Responsive commerce has become one of this year's hottest buzzwords as retailers aim to optimize their online sites for mobile shoppers. However, understanding just what this design strategy is, knowing whether or when to implement it, and justifying the expense to key decision makers all remain key challenges for many companies.
Here then is a crash course in responsive commerce and why it might be time to consider whether it can provide your customers with the seamless shopping experiences they've come to expect across devices.
According to Nielsen, 87 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use mobile devices for shopping-related activities, including browsing and research. And at current growth rates, mobile is expected to account for 50 percent of all e-commerce traffic by the end of 2014.
The explosion of mobile traffic to retail websites has created significant challenges for retailers, which for years focused on ensuring their websites were easy to navigate and convenient for desktop users.
Desktop sites aren't optimized for mobile in several ways, however. They're larger, making them hard for even the fastest mobile devices to process. They're horizontal, while mobile devices favor a vertical layout. Buttons and tabs on swipe-enabled mobile devices also need to be larger and "finger friendly." And mobile devices have unique capabilities such as geo-location and QR code scanning that set them apart from their desk-bound cousins.
The disparate screen sizes, computing speeds and performance capabilities of smartphones and tablets have forced many retailers to establish separate, slimmed-down platforms for each device.
While a necessary reaction to the fast-evolving mobile landscape, operating multiple sites has proven an expensive and time-consuming proposition, especially for small to midsized players with modest web and marketing departments.
Responsive commerce, also known as responsive design, offers an elegant solution to this problem. It uses a single base of code that automatically and dynamically adjusts the layout and content to fit the screen size and functionality of whatever device a shopper is using.
The approach promises merchants a streamlined process for updates and maintenance as well as easy adaptability to the new devices we know are right around the corner.
Google Glass, smartwatches, shoppable TV and other devices not yet developed are certain to continue diversifying the ways consumers interact with their favorite brands and merchants.
Most merchants can't afford to build or manage new platforms for every new device to come down the pike, but responsive commerce uses templates that can easily be adapted and optimized for all existing devices as well as those around the corner, effectively "future proofing" sites by preparing them for changes ahead.
While an alluring solution, there's a lot for any retailer to consider before selecting responsive commerce. Here's a quick overview of some pros and cons.