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How to Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

Optimize for mobile shoppers without making a major investment.

To say that mobile shopping has taken off would be an understatement.

PayPal reports that, in 2011, mobile-payment volume reached $4 billion, up from just $141 million in 2009. On Cyber Monday, alone, mobile-payment volume spiked 552 percent, PayPal notes. Shoppers also spent two and a half times more on eBay Mobile on that day than on the same day in 2010, according to eBay.

If that doesn’t make you sit up and take notice, maybe this will: Researcher comScore predicts that mobile payments will reach $31 billion in four years.

What does this mean for online sellers? It means there’s a big chunk of the online sales pie you can get—if you understand the importance of mobile in the e-commerce equation. It can also mean a missed opportunity if you don’t. To really take advantage of mobile commerce, you’ll need to review your Web store or listings to ensure they’re mobile ready.

We talked to a few experts to get their insights and suggestions. The simple tips they shared with us don’t require any major investments; they just require a little streamlining.

Mobile shoppers are different

The first thing you’ll need to know as you assess your store or listings is that shoppers who use their phones, tablets or other mobile devices aren’t like those who buy from their home computers.

“My experience has been that people accessing commerce sites on mobile are looking for something specific,” says Peter Matthaei, the CEO of boom!, a tech company that runs Mobicanvas, a service that helps businesses optimize their websites for mobile viewing. “On computers, people will often do fairly in-depth research on things, perhaps even do comparison shopping. On mobile, they’re looking for an easy, quick way to solve a specific problem.”

Mobile shoppers are looking for an easy, quick way to solve a specific problem

With this in mind, you should think in terms of simplicity as you try to optimize your listings and/or Web store.

“On mobile, one is optimizing for fulfilling the user’s need as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Matthaei continues. “If a mobile user doesn’t see what they’re looking for very early on, or doesn’t see the relevant information, they’ll just tap away to some other site.”

The fewer steps, the better

Web designer Chrystal Jaeger says workflow and navigation are very important when it comes to mobile shoppers. These consumers are in a hurry and want things done almost instantly, she notes. She suggests eliminating extra steps in the payment flow, emailing, viewing items and all other processes found in your store or listings.

If you sell on a marketplace that is optimized for mobile or has a mobile app, like eBay, you don’t have to worry about this. The marketplace will make the workflow easy for you. But you still need to make sure your title and descriptions are mobile friendly. (We’ll get to that later).

If you have your own site, explore it with a mobile device to see how it appears, and to make sure checkout, contacting you or viewing items doesn’t take longer than it should. Also consider whether it’s really necessary to suggest related items to shoppers.

While this cross-selling tactic can be beneficial when someone accesses your site or listings from the convenience of a home computer, it can be a deal breaker when accessing it from a phone.

Mobile shoppers crave simplicity, our expert tells us. They just want to add items to their baskets and check out. Suggested items may come across as clutter.

If you decide the benefits of product suggestions are just too good to pass up, pare them down to the most relevant.

Also make sure you have an easy way for buyers to go back to your landing page, Matthaei adds, so mobile shoppers don’t have to fumble through your site.

Nix the fancy graphics

As you review your site or listings on a mobile device, consider how many photos and graphics you display. Too many may cause long load times, warns graphic designer Tony Camarota. That’s a no-go for mobile shoppers.

Buyers may be shopping at a brick-and-mortar store and only have minutes to decide if they should buy an item from you, or from the physical store where they are. Long load times will likely frustrate buyers and sway them toward the latter.

So don’t give shoppers too much time to change their minds. Limit the number of photos you have on your store or listings to help reduce load time and avoid flash animations. And don’t worry that this will prevent you from showing items in their truest form. You’ll just have to pay special attention to ensure images are crisp and clear, notes Ginger Leishman of eBay’s Mobile team.

She adds that keeping photos square will make them more suitable for mobile viewing on the marketplace, as it will allow eBay to “more easily render it to fit within any mobile device screen.”

Mobile optimization really means to distill the user experience down to its simplest form, getting rid of a lot of clutter

Keep text to a minimum

You’ll also want to limit the text on your site and in your descriptions, Matthaei notes. Shoppers will have just a few inches to review your product and its details—and they won’t want to zoom in time and time again, or scroll down.

So cut the fluff. For instance, Leishman says, if you’re used to putting words like “Wow” or “L@@K” in your listing titles or descriptions, don’t. Limit text to the very “minimum,” giving shoppers only the information they need.

“Keep the description to the basics,” she continues. “Give everything they need to know about the item to make an accurate and informed purchase, but keep it simple, short and sweet.”

And if you’re listing an item on an auction site, use a Buy It Now option if available. Mobile buyers want what they want right now, and may not wait until the end of an auction.

“Many mobile shoppers are looking to buy an item while shopping,” Leishman continues. “Listing your item in a Buy It Now format—either as a fixed-price item or as an auction item with a Buy It Now option—will attract these shoppers to your items.”

Are buttons big enough?

According to blogger Shaun Mackey, who writes about tips to optimize your website for mobile, the average person’s index finger is 40 pixels to 70 pixels wide, so you’ll need to check the buttons on your site, too. Make sure mobile shoppers have enough space between buttons and links to click on them without accidentally clicking on something else at the same time.

Also consider the size of the text on these buttons. Mobile buyers won’t click the zoom button more than a couple of times to read something.

Really optimize for mobile commerce

Ultimately, though, the best ways to ensure your items or your online store will be viewed correctly on a mobile device are to add a snippet of HTML code to ensure it will display properly on mobile devices, or to work with a company that creates mobile sites for business sites. These complement the full-scale site.

Some of these companies charge for their time. Others, such as Google Sites, are free. A quick search for free mobile sites for business will turn up plenty of sources.

If your site is built on WordPress, browse through the Plugin Directory to see what plugins you can use to optimize your site for mobile. Mobile Pack, for instance, is said to be a complete toolkit for optimizing WordPress sites.

“Optimizing for mobile doesn’t have to be overwhelming,” Matthaei adds. “All that mobile optimization really means is to distill the user experience down to its simplest form, getting rid of a lot of clutter, understanding what a user is looking for and allowing them to do it quickly and efficiently.”

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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