chris-palmer-sellwithwpEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from Chris Palmer.

Chris is the founder of Angle of Attack, which is a successful membership site that specializes in Flight Simulator Training and teaching to real world standards. He also writes at Member Startup, where he writes about eCommerce in general, and covers tips and advice for running a membership site.


Ultimately your goal in selling online is to improve sales, right? Everyone wants more money in the bank and faster growth. When it comes to selling online through your eCommerce platform, presumably WordPress, this is important as ever.

Are you reaching all the potential customers out there? Are there problems with your website that are preventing a large and ever growing viewership from buying something on your site?

Let’s try a quick experiment before we get into the purpose of this article to answer these questions.

I'd like to you go to THIS LINK, punch in your URL, and see what happens: www.responsinator.com

Come back when you've done that.

Ok, done?

One of two things just happened. You perhaps saw that your website works well on a number of devices out there. Great job!

On the other hand, you maybe saw that your website does not look good at all on mobile devices, making the website annoying to use with constant scrolling and panning.

Why Mobile Matters

Without argument, mobile devices are on the rise. We as humans are taking technology with us more and more everywhere we go.

Not only are we in what's called the Post-PC Era, users more than ever are buying things online. No longer is it just about having a mobile phone, mobile texting, mobile email, and a vast number of other users.

Now, mobile is our market place. You and I and your customers. We buy on the go.

Some facts to back this up?

  • eCommerce as a whole grew 24% in 2013 during Black Friday Weekend (PCs, Tablets, Phones).
  • Of that, the mobile component grew a whopping 63%. Almost twice as fast as PC based sales.
  • During this weekend, 1 in 4 dollars spent online were on a mobile device.
    (Source: Business Insider )

If you were one of those that realized your site isn't mobile ready, then you could be missing out on 25% of your sales.

When comparing that to just a few percentage points that we work so hard to gain through sales techniques and optimization, it's obvious that mobile is something that eCommerce websites need – and they need it yesterday.

Mobile Choices

There are several different ways to make your website mobile ready. However, not all ways of making your website mobile are desirable.

There are essentially two ways of doing mobile today.

First, you could create a completely different version of a mobile site. That means that your website would say something like m.yourwebsite.com instead of yourwebsite.com.

Second, your website can be what is called responsive, which makes it compatible with any device (including desktops and mobile).

Because the first option can cause many issues by not being compatible with all devices, in addition to splitting up traffic and URLs, let's assume that in today's world a completely dedicated and separate mobile version of your site isn't the way to go (because it usually isn't).

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive Design is simple at it's core. I define responsive design as follows:

One design, all devices, automatically adaptable (responsive), and a single website to manage.

Essentially, when a customer visits your website, the code detects the size of the screen for that user, and automatically serves them the content at the right size.

You can try this on a site you know is responsive ready. Just pull the width of the browser, and you'll see it automatically adapt.

The main advantages of responsive design are:

  • Device Proof – Who knows what Apple will come out next! We have no idea what the size of the screen will be until the day it's released. With responsive design, it doesn't matter. Because it's liquid, and not a fixed UI, it'll adapt to any future device- mobile, tablet, PC, or something else being dreamed up.
  • One URL – Instead of the m.yourwebsite.com issue, all your traffic will come to one place, with one focus. Your front page at www.yourwebsite.com will look great on a PC at 2000 pixels wide, an iPad, and a smart phone. All while still at www.yourwebsite.com.
  • Simple Management – It's really hard to manage a website! It takes a lot of time to keep up on any design changes, bugs found by customers, designing pages for new products, and so on. Can you imagine doing that for more than one website?

    You don't need to imagine it. Responsive design takes care of all that. One website to manage, one place to put your content / products.
  • A/B Testing – As you progress through the building of your eCommerce platform, it's important to realize that you can squeeze extra conversions and dollars out of your site by optimizing what you have.

    Moving a button, changing a color, or a different title can mean a major impact on your conversion.

    When you start doing this, if you haven't already, responsive allows for one location to track this data. That way you won't have to manage the A/B testing of different sources.

    One page, one optimization strategy.

  • Analytics – Your analytics will be better structured and more complete when coming from single URLs. Otherwise, you'll find yourself having to compare data from two different sites, adding extra and unnecessary steps to your already busy schedule.

Why Should I Care?

Changing to responsive really does matter and it absolutely will improve your sales. If your site isn't already responsive, you're no doubt missing out on SOME sales.

If you care about sales, and money, which I'm guessing you do, you should care about responsive web design.

Thankfully, all of this is provable with some studies that have been done.

O’Neill Clothing

Right now I'm living in Hawaii. Just for a few months. I'll need some sweet board shorts to go surfing, swimming, and snorkeling.

I bet I could find some great shorts over at O'Neill!

O'Neill proved that responsive matters. They took their original site, let it run for 3 weeks (collecting non-responsive data), and then compared that data with a responsive version for another 3 weeks.

The results? Get ready to be blown away.

For iPhone/iPod:

  • Conversions increased by 65.71%
  • Transactions increased by 112.50%
  • Revenue increased by 101.25%

For Android devices:

  • Conversions increased by 407.32%
  • Transactions went up by 333.33%
  • Revenue increased by totally crazy 591.42%

When I saw this data, it was quite mind-blowing to me. Yeah, I know that responsive/mobile matters. It just makes sense.

Seeing numbers to back up those claims is completely different.

The numbers are quite unbelievable. What about a more moderate example?

Skinny Ties

Are you in the market for a skinny tie? I think I might try one out. I don't know though. Perhaps too trendy for me.

Good thing the guys over at Skinny Ties switched over to responsive!

The results?

  • Revenue from iPhone grew a staggering 377.6%
  • iPhone conversion rate increased 71.9%
  • Revenue from all devices went up 42.4%
  • Overall Conversion rate increased by 13.6%
  • Bounce rate dropped 23.2%

Now, these numbers are a bit more reasonable. The O'Neill stats were slightly unbelievable, although true. Is this more what we can expect from our own sites by switching to responsive? I think so.

(Thanks to Peep over at ConversionXL for his great article on responsive design, and these stats.)

I'm Convinced. Now What?

You're now thoroughly convinced it's time that you take mobile seriously. Now what?

The good news is that responsive design isn't some dark corner of the WordPress theme market right now. All the good themes and frameworks available these days are responsive ready, meaning they'll work right out of the box with different screen sizes.

If you're in the market for a good theme and you're just getting your site started up, then that's great news for you. You can easily find a responsive theme.

However, if you're in the camp that already has another theme that isn't currently responsive, then you've got to rethink your site design.

The trouble is that more than any other type of use for WordPress, eCommerce is one of the most difficult to re-design. You aren't just another blogger. You're actually selling something, and sometimes hundreds of items, not to mention all of the templates that have to be taken into account.

This is going to be difficult, and will take your time and investment.

There are several options for getting your theme responsive ready:

  • Get a completely new theme (This is best for self-doers / low budget).
  • Hire a web developer to turn your existing theme into a responsive theme (This may not be possible).
  • Hire a developer to build a custom framework for your site, using responsive design (expensive, may end up looking the most professional).

Quick Note: Not all responsive design is created equal. Just because you switched to a responsive theme doesn't mean your website is usable or functional. This is where a good designer / developer helps out tremendously.

From there, switching to a new design and a new framework for WordPress can be a difficult and time consuming process, especially if you bought a theme that bundled functionality instead of using plugins. Based on the sales numbers and potential up-tick in business for the foreseeable future, however, it's an endeavor worth considering.

Once you're on a responsive theme or framework, your life will be much easier! Responsive designed themes are inherently 'light weight' and load much faster than other types of themes. Apart from that, you gain all of the sales benefits mentioned previously.

Conclusion

Some would call responsive design a fad. Then again, some have called the internet a fad. Responsive design is the way of the future.

Why?

It makes our website adaptable to any device and gives potential customers a visually pleasing and far easier experience that they now expect. That way, they can open their wallets and help you grow and you help them find what they need. The data proves it will help our current eCommerce efforts.

If you're willing to leave behind 25% of your business due to a design change, be my guest. My guess is you won't do that, however, and responsive design will be in your near future.

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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.

2 Comments

  1. Great insight. The O’Neill stats are pretty staggering. I had a guy at a conference the other day tell me sales from iPad had gone up 800% since they switched to a responsive layout. I’m just about to start work on a new eCommerce site for a client so I’ll definitely bear this in mind. Thanks.

    1. Wow, thanks for sharing that stat Dom! Certainly makes the case for a responsive site even stronger. Good luck with your project!

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