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Converting Mobile Searchers – Back to Basics

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Steve Baker

Chief Analyst

Over the Christmas period, my home laptop finally gave up the ghost. In fairness, it’s been a shocker since my old one was replaced due to a dodgy cooling fan. There is a point to my waffle. I have been forced to use my iPhone more and more for searching online. I wouldn’t say I’m a late adopter, just that I haven’t ever been that impressed by brands' mobile sites when I have used them. So when looking for a large toy storage box the other day, I expected to visit the usual suspects for this: Argos, Mothercare, Ikea and Toys R Us.

However when I searched online for “toy storage box with seat”, I found plenty of companies I had never heard of. My experience of their mobile sites was not great as they didn’t seem to have taken into account the needs of mobile users very well. Sites didn’t render properly, drop down menus didn’t work as expected, page layouts were messy and buttons overlaid text links which made it impossible to select the option you wanted next. So I defaulted to the brands I have already mentioned, and I’m sorry to say that my experience wasn’t much better. Ikea couldn’t tell me if the item I wanted was in stock anywhere in the country. The option to check stock in your local store didn’t work at all due to the drop down not loading at all, making it impossible to work out whether my local store stocked the item I wanted. Argos offered a very good mobile version of their site, only to tell me that the item I wanted had to be bought via the full site. Upon directing me to the right page on the full site, the postcode lookup for delivery appeared in a pop up which was not centrally in the mobile browser, but way down to the left. It took me minutes to find what I needed and I only managed to find this by zooming out. The Toys R Us site was impossible to find my way around. The drop down navigations were very difficult to operate on a mobile, and I gave up after about 20 seconds of trying. As for Mothercare, they have really tried to optimise their mobile experience by building a mobile-only site. Now this renders fine and works pretty well but there is one major drawback. They only have a small range of the products they stock on their mobile site, and there is no link to go to the full site to see the larger range. I finally parted my money with Argos, purely due to the fact that it was easier to buy the item I wanted from them. So there is a lot retailers need to do to close this gap. As Search Engine Land reported in January, 2011 was the year where shopping via mobiles really grew. Bearing in mind that 86% of people use a mobile while watching TV, retailers need to really capitalise on this. What are your thoughts on mobile-friendly sites? - @sbaker81