The heading is a bit misleading. Mobile internet traffic is not a question. It’s a fact.

Mobile traffic is on the rise. As the above states, there are currently 22.05 million mobile internet subscribers, many of whom are ‘surfing the net’ through devices such as iPhones and tablets.

This figures has seen sustained growth and it will continue to do so right through 2013. Businesses who don’t appropriately react to this growth in the coming year will find themselves at a significant disadvantage.

Mobile traffic, currently, does not convert at anywhere near the rate of traffic coming from non-mobile devices such as desktops. As the percentage of mobile traffic grows, site conversion rates are going to be under increased pressure as a result. This growth, like so many changes in the online commerce space, is going to continue whether businesses like it or not.

Adapting to Mobile

So how does a business maintain site conversion when mobile traffic is on the rise. The answer is to stop treating your website as a singular static entity. The main problem faced by many mobile users when it comes to conducting shopping online is dealing with websites that are built for a screensize and interface significantly different than what they are currently using.

Consider the following usability issues a typical website will face when viewed on a mobile touch screen device:

  • Text is now presented at a much smaller size, hampering readability without zooming in.
  • Sites are often formatted with a landscape presentation in mind rather than the portrait presentation that is native to most mobile devices.
  • Small buttons that are easy to click with a precision instrument like a mouse become distressingly difficult to ‘click’ with accuracy when the pointing device is the much larger human finger.
  • To be able to use available content visitors frequently have to zoom in to areas, meaning for most of the time important messages such as brand benefits and the like are not even being seen by your prospects.

There are three options available for businesses looking to have a better online presence:

Adaptive Site Design

The simplest method by far is to implement an adaptive website design. What this means is that your layout rearranges itself based on screen size and device type. See the Boston Globe website for a clear example.

This is not the most effective means of adapting to your mobile visitors but it represents a relatively low cost option for online retailers looking to quickly fix the hole that mobile traffic represents in its conversion rate.

Mobile Specific Sites

Perhaps the most popular (and for many businesses, the most logical) approach for engaging with mobile traffic is to direct mobile traffic to a mobile specific version of your website. By doing this you are able to create a site design that is specific to the mobile platform, allowing you to obviate the risks associated with directing visitors to a site not designed with them in mind.

Mobile Apps

Another option for online retailers is to invest in the development of an app for platforms such as iOS and Google Android (Note: Windows 8 may become a serious consideration in the future as well).

The benefit of these apps is that they are highly visible on your prospects mobile device. They also provide the ability to produce push notifications to let visitors know about upcoming sales or offers. Utilisation of this feature must obviously be done with caution lest you be seen as too intrusive and find your app deleted overnight.

Some Tips

The biggest tip to be provided is to partner with an expert in mobile conversion optimisation. Just as a building is an effort between the builders and the architects, you can just expect your web developer to carry the full responsibility of your mobile site’s success. You need expert advice.

Regardless, here are some things to keep in mind when developing your website.

  • Mobile Aint Mobile
    Despite their touchscreen nature, tablets and phones are homogenous devices. For most websites it will be safer to send your tablet visitors to your desktop website (especially if it uses adaptive site design). Your average tablet these days is not much smaller than a laptop monitor so do not treat it the same as a phone.
  • Keep Buttons Big
    Stabbing at the screen with your finger is intuitive, but imprecise. Be sure that your design recognises this and makes it hard for your visitors to miss a single finger press.
  • Security. Security. Security.
    One big deterrent for many mobile users when shopping online is concerns about piracy. Be sure to make them comfortable that their shopping transaction is secure.
  • Make Searching Easy
    People on a mobile device are less likely to spend time browsing your site. Let them qualify their needs quickly by making sure search functionality is always within easy reach.
  • Make it Fast
    Mobile networks are often slower than their wired counterparts. Recognise this and make sure your mobile site is lean and efficient. Visitors will not wait around for your page to render. Make sure your content displays in 5 seconds or less.

To reiterate, mobile is growing. There is nothing you can do about it. Look at your own analytics and the inevitability of this growth will be difficult to deny. It is incumbent on any business wishing to be successful in 2013 and beyond that they don’t ignore their mobile customers, and work hard at delivering a friendly, responsive platform for these prospects.

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