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Mobile search experiences a necessity not just for ecommerce brands

PHILADELPHIA ? Panelists during an eTail East 2014 Search Summit discussion said mobile experiences are a key extension to successfully navigate through the changing search landscape.

During the Search Summit Keynote Panel discussion, "The latest in search trends to breathe new life into your programs," it was noted that mobile apps and optimized sites are essential for all brands whether dedicated to ecommerce or not. However more surmountable challenges persist for those looking to transact on smart devices as conversions are 80 percent lower than they are on personal computers according to a exec.

?I think the question of whether to have an app is how often do your users buy? Or do you have something for people where it is worth it for them to have something on their phone instead of going to your Website?? said Ms. Sara Shikhman, co-founder and CEO of Rent A Gent.

?For example Rent A Gent rents out men to women for dates; How often does that really happen? Well for our best clients, once every week or two. So is it worthwhile for a woman to have an app? We think it?s better for her to have a really great mobile experience because we find having a good mobile site is like having a good first date.?

?If it is not up to par you will not come back to the desktop version. So even if you find that you don?t have any purchases on a mobile site or less than 10 percent of your traffic comes from mobile device, if that experience is not good they will not give you a second chance,? she said.

Responsive Web versus mobile design
More than 50 percent of smartphone time in the U.S. is spent in apps. Paid search is fractured by mobile and multi straining in-app adverting. When asked how they deal with mobile facets and portioning budgets or knowing when to build for mobile, execs from Rent A Gent and SEMrush agreed that smartphone behavior is different, and a dedicated mobile site allows them to serve a growing smartphone audience with an experience worthy of their brands.

Today, smartphones account for 18 percent of total web traffic, up 100 percent year over year, and tablets account for 22 percent of total traffic, up 35 percent year over year, Forrester reports. Creating a responsive Web design is one option to businesses looking to jump into mobile waters, and typically uses one code base, one set of Web content and one URL structure to serve up versions of the same site that optimally fit the screen sizes of whatever device is requesting a page.

While great for non-transactional brands, those executing the selling of goods often decide RWD is not the best fit, although building a mobile site using existing data is very appealing.

The process to build a mobile site is conversely much more cost-effective than that for a RWD site, and execs agreed that the speed at which a mobile site can be launched is an added bonus. Moreover, just shrinking ecommerce sites down to fit is not always the best option, as brands can ill afford to have any percentage of customers pinching and zooming and swiping their way through a full desktop site on a tiny smartphone, a poor mobile shopping experience that leads to site abandonment, retailers successful in mcommerce today say.

Challenges of conversion
Execs said smartphones are more of browse or research platform rather than a buy platform, but that is like saying an egg is round because it has no sharp corners: it describes the situation but doesn?t explain why it?s happening.

That may have been true at one time, but today tablets, smartphones, and personal computers are all mainstream devices in the developed world.

About 79 percent of American households have personal computers, 58 percent of Americans have smartphones, and 42 percent have tablets, according to Pew and the US Census Bureau.

 Conversion on personal computer websites is three times the rate on smartphones

Smartphones are used on the go, when people don?t have time to shop. But if people weren?t shopping on mobile at all, there would be no web traffic from smartphones to commerce sites. But according to Forrester, up to 30 percent of traffic to major websites comes from mobile. Also, people?s usage patterns would indicate that ?on the go? is not even close to the only time when people are using their smart devices. ?

So what is it about mobile that discourages people from moving from research to purchase? Three recurring conversion problems inherent to mobile include the fact that features of mobile devices, especially smartphones, discourage purchasing such as small screen size. But that?s not the dominant factor. Much more important are the purchasing experience on mobile devices is poor, because marketers have not adapted their sites to the needs of mobile, and i n many cases, mobile sales actually do convert, but current tracking technologies don?t let them see it.

?We know that lots of people have ample presentations means but it hasn?t been everything they hoped it would be,? said Michael Stricker, marketing director at SEMrush.

?First you have to have a mobile presentation in place. An app might be something that if you were a price competitor, something you could scan such as a code might be beneficial.?

?It constantly tuning it up and trying to change traffic on multiple mobile devices, as higher conversion rate equals a higher transaction take,? he said.

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York