It's official, the internet is changing. Or rather, the way people are using the internet is changing, so the internet needs to change. And it will, so don't let your website be one of those left behind.
According to the new BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor, mobile retail searches surged 181%
year-on-year for the three months to March 2011. People are not just sitting at computers looking for your products; they are sitting on the train, in a meeting or on the toilet looking at their mobile phones.
As BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "The rise of mobile use to one in 10 searches sends a valuable message to any forward-thinking retailer that doesn't yet have an m-commerce platform."
Many of you already know about this new way of browsing the web. I know you do because over the last month over 6.5% of our traffic here at DIYWeek.net was from users of mobile phones and tablets. (If you're interested, about half of these were using an iPhone, the next popular device was an iPad so looks like a lot of you are Apple people.)
So do you know the figure for your own website? Do you know what your website looks like to someone using an iPhone? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
1. Do you have a mobile version of your website?
There's a simple bit of code you can use to redirect mobile users to a simpler version of your website, with fewer images, content in a long list rather than over more than one column etc. This version will not only be easier for the phone/tablet user to navigate, it will also load a lot faster so they won't be waiting ages for each page to load, or giving up and going somewhere else.
2. Does your website use a lot of Flash animation?
iPhones and iPads can't read Flash. So if that's all your site is made of, they could be seeing a blank space where your shiny logo, galloping unicorn and animated product rainbow should be. Not ideal!
3. What do these mobile users want?
Take a detailed look at your website statistics. What areas of the site are mobile users visiting? If they are just looking for your contact details, put your phone number right at the top of the new mobile version of your website. If they are browsing products, arrange them in an easy to see list on your mobile site. If they are not buying products online, are they just researching for a more detailed look when they are at their computer later, or perhaps your ordering system doesn't work on their hand held device?
4. How are mobile users getting to my website
? Well as we've found, a lot of them are using search engines. But there are new ways to attract mobile users specifically to your site. For example, you might not realise you can create QR codes online in seconds for free (no technical knowledge required) which, when scanned with a smart phone from your advert or catalogue, take the user directly to your website.
5. Is there an App for That?
Retailers and suppliers are creating Apps like crazy for mobile users to download. Think carefully when having an app built, is it going to be genuinely useful to a user? What is the reason for them to download it? Make the app everyone recommends to their colleagues or friends and you'll be onto a winner.
I've just invested in a tablet myself, so I'll be taking a look to see how the websites of retailers and suppliers stand up to the test of new technology. If you think your site is particularly great, let me know using the comment system below or contact me on Twitter
and perhaps I'll publish a hall of fame on this blog.