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It's been another busy year for ecommerce, with one of the key themes being the widespread adoption of responsive design.
But have retailers finally gotten to grips with mobile, or is there still much to be done? I lean towards the latter as, though some brands provide an excellent mobile experience, many are still woeful.
I've asked our ecommerce experts, agency and client-side, for their views...
What were the most significant trends in ecommerce this year?
James Gurd, Owner at Digital Juggler:
From an SEO point of view, there has been the usual merry-go-round of updates and changes in approach. Yes there are hacks/workarounds but none accurately replace the data we had before, so there is more emphasis on page-level optimisation now.
I think we'll see more landing page optimisation, focused on the overall UX and top line metrics like bounce rate/click through/visit-to-basket and visit-to-order. GA's move to universal analytics and introduction of its own Tag Manager is a big move and disruptive for other data management companies.
Google is sensibly using its position as the # analytics tool to pull people further in to its ecosystem. There will be a lot of time and effort spent in 2014 on realising the potential of universal analytics. I wish I could claim to understand exactly how it can and should be used but there are far smarter analytics people out there!
RTA is growing but still isn't being used to its full potential by many retailers. The more companies invest in data and analytics, the greater the potential to drive value through RTA.
Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWD:
This year we saw some of our top ecommerce clients tackle their European ecommerce presence rather than focusing, and only investing in their UK experience.
We see this trend continuing as brands realise the impact of Conversion Rate Optimisation and importance of native customer insight has on increasing the revenue and market share in their next largest European territories.
The single most significant trend we’ve seen this year with our Ecommerce clients is the involvement and buy-in from the very top of the organisations we work with.
We’ve seen this across our CRO programmes, as budget holders invest where measurable ROI can be seen. And while the practice of refining a site using analytics, customer insight and statically sound testing is still a specialist area, it’s giving many brands a real advantage over their competitors in increasingly competitive markets.
Have online retailers finally gotten to grips with mobile commerce?
Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh:
I think most online retailers have woken up to the fact that mobile is here to stay. However, I still hear people talking in a desktop frame of mind; we’re as guilty as anyone at this. Whenever we look at mock-ups of new functionality I always see people looking at the desktop version first.
We (ecommerce professionals) spend our time sat at desks looking at websites, so it’s difficult to make the mental shift. However, our customers already have and will continue to move in droves to a more mobile online existence.
I’ve spoken to a number of professionals who have expressed frustration with the challenges in making a responsive site work for mobile, the difficulties in down-scaling a desktop experience. I think we’ll only have gotten to grips with mobile when we start thinking about mobile-first and asking about how we can up-scale it for desktop.
We’re all going to have to get good at mobile commerce, if not, we’ll wake up in Q3, there will be more customers browsing our sites on mobiles than on desktop PCs and we’ll be making no money from them.
We’ll be launching schuh responsive in the spring, we relaunched our outlet site as a responsive pilot a couple of weeks ago and we’ve already seen good conversion growth. I think we’ll see some conversion growth on schuh when we relaunch but perhaps not as much, as it is a more mature offering.
Nick Whitmore, Managing Director at Whitmore Media Ltd :
The short answer is yes, but a lot of companies think because they have a responsive website or an app, that they’ve cracked it.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. I think the eBay mobile website is very poor indeed, so is the app. If one of the biggest names in ecommerce can’t get it right, the rest of the pack has very little chance!
Yes and no. Some have made good moves with further investment in native apps and the alignment of the UX/UI patterns across devices but there are still many unoptimised mobile journeys.
From a pure design perspective, I think M&S has made a good start in aligning the desktop/mobile experience and the mobile site and app are consistent. I just wish it would stop throwing up annoying pop-up banners on the mobile site.
Pinterest was the first (I think) to use mobile site real estate to promote native apps – a clever little banner using device detection to promote the relevant OS version and prompt you to download, then if you have the app installed, message changes to encourage you to switch from mobile site to app. I've not seen any data to validate the impact.
Depesh Mandalia, Head of Digital at QualitySolicitors
In short, I don't think we as an industry have a right answer yet. Mobile site? App? Responsive? Other?
Context, product and demographic play a central role in defining the mobile strategy, yet with Google reporting threefold increases in tablet uptake to 30% and smartphone uptake doubling to 62% across the UK we're still yet to really see, in my opinion, the truth behind the mobile device.
Indeed you can now browse through your Smart TV, Google Glass, games consoles and soon your car. We've already heard of Smart Fridges gaining and losing momentum and other 'mobile' devices will continue to pop-up with the ability to interact with the ecommerce channel.
So quite short of getting to grips with mobile, I'm not so sure we can keep up with the pace of change.
I personally think that websites that don't have some form of mobile experience are missing out on the fundamentals however beyond that is really down to the individual companies to research with their customer and keep pace with digital trends to maximise profitability.