Mobile-First for E-Commerce Trumps Mobile-Friendly for 2018

Have an E-Commerce Website? Mobile-Friendly May Not Be Enough.

mobile-first e-commerce

Mobile internet usage surpassed desktop usage for the first time in October 2016.
And it’s been surging forward ever since.

Last November, StatCounter reported that mobile devices made up 51.3% of global internet usage in October 2016, while desktop made up 48.7%. In August 2017, reported that mobile traffic now makes up 52.21% of internet traffic.

While desktop usage still outpaces mobile in the United States – 58% over 42%, respectively (StatCounter) – there is no mistaking the trend toward mobile devices becoming the preferred method of surfing the web.

That said, we’ve seen a powerful shift toward mobile-first in website development.

That’s not to say mobile-friendly isn’t still relevant. It’s been a big part of website development for the last decade, and there are still plenty of companies out there who are still running sites that seem shoe-horned into a mobile device. However, over the next few years, it is imperative that companies really think about a mobile-first upgrade for 2018.


Mobile-First is Especially Important for E-Commerce

We cannot stress enough just how vital it is for e-commerce companies to embrace mobile-first design.

In 2016, mobile commerce revenue was $170 billion, and will likely hit $694 billion by 2019. Experts predict mobile commerce to make up about 45% of all e-commerce activities by 2020. That’s up from 20.6% in 2016.

With more customers turning to mobile devices to shop, ensuring a positive user experience is critical in converting those sales. To that end, mobile-friendly may be great for making sure your website can physically adapt to a smaller screen. But a mobile-first approach takes things even further to a more functional level.


Benefits of a Mobile-First Approach

Mobile-First is more than just having a website that looks good on a mobile device. The mobile-first approach actually considers some of the technical differences between desktop and mobile platforms, specifically:

  • Landscape – Mobile devices have less real estate
  • Connection speed – Mobile devices tend to operate at slower speeds (consider limited data plans)
  • Content – Desktop-first websites tend to scale back and remove content and features as the screen shrinks
  • Functionality – Certain desktop-first functions (e.g. drop-down menus, Flash support, etc.) don’t always transfer over well to mobile

By building a website with the mobile user in mind, designers find ways to use these differences to their advantage:

Streamlined Functionality

Websites built with a desktop-first approach generally take advantage of all the technology that the platform has to offer. Unfortunately, all of those super cool features typically don’t scale down very well to mobile platforms. This leads to a mobile product that feels more like an afterthought and doesn’t make for an optimal user experience.

E-commerce customers typically don’t have any use for a lot of those extras. With a mobile-first approach, designers build the site with the bare essentials, allowing for a more streamlined, to-the-point mobile experience. It also eliminates much of the lag due to slower connection speeds.

Mobile-first websites are built to gradually “enhance” to meet larger platforms, like laptops and desktops. The tighter design also feels more relevant to what the end-user is trying to accomplish. And since the website can build up from the mobile version, you can gradually make it more robust, or keep it lean and efficient.

Direct, Focused Content

There is a lot of real estate to fill with desktop platforms. And since content is king, using plenty of text, images, video, audio, etc. makes a website as engaging as possible. However, it can be difficult to chip away at a mountain of content.

Being selective with your content and keeping it to the vital elements maintains a customer-centric user experience. In adds to the snappy mobile design, which carries over to the desktop version for a better end result.

Smaller Files

Designers build mobile-first websites with smaller files for images and other components. This is drastically different from mobile-responsive design, which scales down existing elements without reducing file size.

So, a desktop-first website that is mobile-responsive scales down to meet the restrictions of the smaller screen. However, the files are still sized for a desktop platform. They will devour data and may cause the site’s load times to drag.

It’s Good for Business

When it comes to customers actually finding your website, having a faster loading speed matters. Google search algorithm actually gives mobile-first websites priority in search rankings. We’ve known this since 2010. And with the Google Local 3-Pack changing the local SERPs game, giving your website every opportunity to outpace your competition has never been more important.

Since mobile-first websites require less data, your company saves money on bandwidth and provides a more efficient shopping experience. The better the user experience, the more likely that customer is to return to buy more stuff.

We understand that spending the time and money to revamp a website isn’t usually high on anybody’s list. But as times change, your website is more than just a web presence. E-commerce websites are just as important to your company’s success as any piece of job-critical equipment.

Investing in a mobile-first e-commerce website today prepares you for the customers of tomorrow.