Search Me

SLI Marcus-LawIn its 2013 paper, Mobile Trends for Marketers, Forrester Research announced that “mobile on the cheap is over,” and suggested that businesses treat it as a strategic priority rather than an afterthought.

According to Forrester, the top complaints of mobile shoppers are:

  • Retailers’ websites are harder to navigate and use on a mobile device than on a desktop (51 per cent)
  • Product images are too small to make a buying decision (46 per cent)
  • Concerns over security on a smartphone (41 per cent)
  • Checkout process is a pain (26 per cent)

If these problems sound familiar for your own mobile site, here is some advice on how to make mobile sites more search- and user-friendly.

Show succinct content
Mobile screens don’t allow for lengthy product descriptions or the many site navigation links that you’d find on normal search results pages. To ensure rapid load times and uncluttered pages, it is important to keep the content presented on search result pages concise.

7 For All Mankind gives users succinct but useful information such as Article Name, Picture, and Price. It keeps search results brief, while adding price discount information. Short product descriptions can also be added, but as there isn’t a lot of room for much information, be sure to limit content to the essentials, for example, the number of colours available, and the style code.

Use small thumbnails
Keep product images small so as not to slow down page loads. SockShop uses small product thumbnail images in order to increase download speeds. I’d recommend doing this so that you have as many product results as possible above the page fold, which allows visitors to see more of their available options.

Use the bottom of the page
Other important search features to include on a mobile site are sort options (popularity, best sellers, newest), pagination, and keyword-related search suggestions. The best practices for mobile sites are to include these at the bottom of the search results pages. I’d also recommend providing another search box at the bottom of the page to save visitors from scrolling back up to the top to perform another search, as can be seen on Boden’s mobile site. By doing this, visitors can conveniently access all other search options from one area, once they’ve reviewed the initial search results set.

Serve the most relevant results at the top
Serving relevant product results at the top of the page is crucial on mobile sites, so savvy mobile marketers should be considering what algorithm to use when merchandising, and ranking the results to deliver this experience. Keep in mind that search is even more important to the shopping experience on mobile due to browsing limitations, so making sure that relevant results are returned, based on what the visitor is looking for, is a necessity rather than a nice-to-have feature.

Remember – there are no second chances on mobile
A recent US Harris Interactive survey makes this clear: if you fail to perform during a shopper’s first visit on your site, don’t count on getting a second chance.
More than 70 percent of US consumers use their smartphones to shop, and among those who do, 88 per cent have had a negative experience. Most of us can relate to the frustration of having tried to make a purchase via smartphone only to abandon your cart mid-way through the experience. However, according to this study, an alarming 30 per cent said that they would never return to that particular retailer’s mobile website again.

Mobile shoppers are not the most patient or forgiving crowd. Considering that there are now more than a billion consumers with smartphones and more than 150m tablets sold, it’s crucial to recognise that consumers around the world are driving a shift in how purchasing is done. By launching a new mobile site or optimising your existing one and focusing on enhancing your site search, you’ll attract, engage and keep customers coming back.

Marcus Law is marketing manager at SLI Systems