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Motorcycle Superstore revs up mobile design despite low conversion rates

PHILADELPHIA - Internet-based retailer Motorcycle Superstore is future-proofing its Web site design to keep up with the pace of new devices on the market regardless of lower conversion rates on mobile compared to desktop.

While most acknowledge that mobile is now an imperative, many are unsure of how to operationalize it for their businesses. During an eTail East 2014 session, an exec noted that more people than ever are living their lives on multiple screens and so building a mobile product that caters to the same needs of the desktop user is more important than ever before.

?Mobile traffic is eclipsing desktop traffic, and you can put money behind mobile and show that you need to optimize it,? said Jason Miller, former chief technology officer of Motorcycle Superstore.

?So every time you talk about mobile and you talk about trying to put money behind it everyone argues that mobile?s conversion poor and they don?t want to invest because it is only half of what desktop is, but there?s more to it and I think that when you focus too much on that last statement you lose out on the value of mobile.

?A report by Google found that many consumers start a transaction on mobile and then move to desktop to finish it. You can then infer that there is more value to mobile beyond just the conversion rate,? he said.

Knowing versus doing gap
Mr. Miller cited a recent IBM report that said a vast majority of marketing leaders recognize the importance of mobile, but only two thirds feel they have a strong understanding of the mobile user experience

The biggest challenge today is then educating and training marketers how to deliver on mobile's promise, with the right strategies and processes for specific goals. Always-on connectivity represents a sociological shift in how users relate with both the digital and physical world, and businesses that understand this will win.

While mobile opens up new opportunities for conversion, the path to purchase is very different than that which begins on a desktop or tablet. A mobile conversion does not always entail filling up an online shopping cart and checking out. It can be a customer searching for store directions, calling a business directly or visiting in person. It can be an app download that leads to a purchase, or a shopping process that starts on mobile and then finishes on a computer or tablet later in the day.

Choosing the right design
The problem is complexity. In the world of mobile Web, the primary two options are a responsive site or a dedicated mobile website known as Mdot.

For instance, an site design for a smartphone-oriented Web site is a very simple site. It usually has a small HTML, that can be quickly delivered in a handful of packets. In addition, it has very few scripts, CSS files and images, and each of those tends to be small.

While sites can have horrible performance due to various mistakes, responsive Web sites, on the other hand, are complex. A responsive page when loaded on a smartphone would still require the browser to download and contend with a big HTML file. After the HTML, the site would need to take extra care to avoid running certain scripts, loading certain CSS and download certain images.

Avoiding these resources is possible and desirable but it is not easy. In addition, even if perfectly implemented, avoiding those resources requires code and complexity, and has its own performance price. A responsive Web site tuned to perform the best it can would not be as fast as a dedicated site tuned equally well. Or more realistically, an average responsive website would always be slower than an average site.

For arguments sake, O?Neil clothing went from to responsive design, and mobile feedback increased 218.41 percent a year after switching to a responsively designed site.

Performances is the deciding factor of success as 47 percent of users expect a Web page to load in less than 2 seconds before aborting. O`Neill monitored conversions, transactions and revenue for three weeks prior to going responsive. Then, after deploying the responsive conditions to the already live site, they monitored the same metrics for another three weeks. For iPhone/iPod: conversions increased by 65.71 percent, transactions increased by 112.25 percent and revenue increased by 101.25 percent.

?If you don?t test things before you make a change and rely on best practices, you are doing yourself a disservice because you don?t know if what you did had positive or negative effects,? Mr. Miller said.

Best practices are a great starting point but you have to fit it to your site, your users, your particular type of product because it?s always going to be different.?

"I don?t think there is no model that fits everything and I think if you?re not testing your just shooting yourself in the foot,? he said.

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