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Popularity of ‘shopping on the go’ lends itself to mobile websites

By Jenna Lippin

Volume 26/Number 26; May 13/20, 2013

Capitol Carpet enlisted FloorForce to design a mobile site that would allow customers to successfully obtain store information from a smartphone or other mobile device.

The majority of people today have developed attachments to their smartphones and mobile devices. Because of this “addiction,” many companies, including those in the flooring industry, have created mobile websites to supplement their desktop versions.

According to Google AdSense, a mobile or mobile-optimized website is defined as “a website designed to be viewed on a mobile device [as they] have considerably smaller screen sizes than standard desktop computers… [w]hile some older phones and certain regions require websites to be written in a specific language and cannot handle JavaScript, most smartphones now have browsers similar to desktop computers. For this reason, older mobile websites are considerably different from more modern mobile sites.”

A Google study published in September stated 74% of people who visited a mobile website said they were more likely to return to the site because of the format, with 67% of those users more likely to buy the product or service on the website. When consumers try to visit a website that is not mobile friendly, statistics show they become frustrated and, therefore, much less likely to actually make a purchase. In fact, 52% of users in the study said “a bad mobile experience” decreased their probability of “engag[ing] with the company.”

John Weller, vice president of marketing for FloorForce, which specializes in online marketing and website development for flooring dealers, has witnessed the shift to mobile websites first-hand. He claims “by 2014 it is projected that more consumers will search the web from mobile devices than computers….However, consumers searching the web from a phone rarely want the same info in the

Shaw’s “Find a Retailer” feature on its mobile site helps consumers find the mill’s dealers in a given area, along with providing access to the company’s product catalogs.

same format as a person on a computer.”

The turn consumers are making toward mobile sites has been dubbed the “Customer Revolution,” according to Weller. “Consumers today are hyper-connected to their friends, families and co-workers, using mobile devices to communicate through social media sites, instant messaging and emails. Retailers who figure out how to connect with consumers using these platforms will quickly move far ahead of those who don’t.”

Steve Cosentine, vice president of Capitol Carpets in south Florida, noticed the store’s website, which FloorForce designed, “had a strange configuration on a mobile device.” He knew he had to go back to FloorForce for help. If potential customers continued to try to utilize an inefficient website, it could mean trouble for business.

“Before FloorForce even announced they were ready to launch mobile sites, I asked John about it,” Cosentine explained. “We want our customers to be able to use our site wherever they are. The mobile website has made a real difference, especially with location-based search to find our stores. In the last 30 days we’ve had over 1,800 unique visitors to our site, and 300 of those were to our mobile page. And this number is growing every month.”

Jessica Correa, vice president of marketing for Carpet One, can also vouch for this shift to mobile usage. “It is pretty obvious even to an average media consumer that the shift to mobile media is midstream right now. Fifty-five percent of mobile phone users utilize their phones to go online, and 31% of that group uses their devices as the No. 1 way to gain online access. Currently, mobile browsing accounts for 11% of all browsing; statistics show people are shifting work from desktop environments to mobile environments.”

Noticing this change in consumer behavior, manufacturers such as Shaw decided to go the mobile route after seeing the increased traffic to websites through mobile devices and researching statistics exhibiting the growth of mobile website use, explained Misty Hodge, interactive marketing manager. The company added the site to its Shaw Web Studio initiative as a free tool for dealers.

The GPS feature within a shopper’s mobile device will help her find the Carpet One store closest to her current location.

A major feature of Shaw’s mobile site is its Find a Retailer, which allows a user to either enter her ZIP code or use the phone’s GPS to determine her location and find the closest Shaw dealer. “We wanted to make sure our dealers were found everywhere consumers shop whether online, at home or on the go,” Hodge noted. “Shaw uses its mobile site to reach consumers on behalf of our dealers. We [also] have high resolution imagery that helps the dealer build his brand.”

Carpet One’s mobile site also helps users find dealers within a certain radius, along with giving access to the group’s product catalog. However, things in the online shopping world are evolving once again, and Carpet One is working with those changes and revamping its mobile website. “People now are spending time browsing, shopping and researching on phones and mobile devices,” Correa said. “As we move forward we will have to answer that call and look at mobile devices to see what pieces in the early part of the shopping experience we should add.”

Some retailers may ask, “Aren’t mobile apps even better than mobile websites?” For flooring dealers, the answer is usually “no.” Because of the funds and detail required, many small companies cannot meet the necessary monetary and design demands of building an app. Instead of creating an app simply because it is the “thing to do,” a dealer may be better suited for a mobile site.

“I am a huge supporter of apps, but people tend to keep things on their phones they will use on an ongoing basis, in their day-to-day lives,” Correa said. “Shopping for floor covering is something a person will do two to three times in his or her lifetime, so an app for finding flooring isn’t necessary. Creating an app is a sexy thing in our industry right now. The focus should be on what works, which may not be the sexiest thing.”