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Increasing stickiness on the mobile site with the search box

July 29, 2013

Geoff Brash is cofounder of SLI Systems

By Geoff Brash 

Whether or not you have a successful mobile commerce site, you should consider it a work in progress – similar to your traditional ecommerce site. 

As the mobile commerce world is continually evolving, smart ecommerce marketers must always innovate and enhance their mobile sites to keep up with changes in the market.

And as shoppers become more comfortable with the mobile environment, they also become more demanding – another reason why online marketers need to be attuned to how people look for and buy products on the small screen.

Just the facts
Mobile device users are swift to bail out of a mobile commerce site if they struggle to navigate through ordering options or cannot easily find the products for which they are looking.

According to a recent study by Demandforce, 60 percent of consumers say they are likely to leave a Web site quickly if it is not optimized for mobile devices.

Additionally, 67 percent say they are more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly site. Which group do you want your mobile site to be in – the one with the deserters, or the one that encourages visitors to stay around and shop?

The smartest way to ensure that shoppers stick around on your mobile site is to expand the role of search in the user experience.

Mobile shoppers are not that interested in showy Web site animation or an artistic presentation – they just want easy access to basic product information and photos, plus quick pathways to relevant search results.

Limited screen real estate does not give mobile shoppers much room for navigating from page to page or product to product, and poor download speeds can make mobile Web pages load slowly.

This means that a search box can provide the most useful gateway to finding products and content on mobile sites and mobile applications.

In addition, mobile shoppers increasingly use their devices for research as well as for purchases, so you want to facilitate this research process as much as possible.

In the box
Consumers who find it easy to do product research on your mobile are more likely to become buyers down the road.

The search box is the first step toward encouraging visitors to browse for and buy products, and to conduct research on your site.

Therefore, it should be the first thing your customers see when they arrive at your mobile site – they should not have to scroll around the homepage to find it.

If anything, the search box should be more prominently displayed on your mobile site than on your desktop site, given the limitations of mobile browsing.

As you can see here, motorcycle accessories retailer Motorcycle Superstore places the search box right in the middle of the mobile homepage:

Another way to facilitate fast searching for mobile users is to add Auto Complete to your search box – it lists relevant search results as soon as shoppers have typed in a few letters of the search term.

With this tool in place, your mobile customers do not have to worry so much about spelling a product name correctly, or knowing the exact wording or brand name.

Once your visitors have gone to the search box and entered their search term, they expect a “just the facts” approach to search results – they do not need the level of detail that you might provide on your standard Web site.

For example, pictures can be smaller so that they do not take too long to download. Also, product descriptions should be brief.

The idea is to distill the information down to the minimum required to help shoppers make purchase decisions, without cluttering the Webpage.

Century Novelty does this, showing a small photo and just a few words for each mobile search result.

You can also help searchers by placing the most popular search results at the top of the list.

If you are doing a good job of combing through search data, you should already know which products and content and search terms related to those items are most popular with your customers.

Place these results at the top so that users are more likely to find what they need quickly.

To avoid forcing your visitors to have to search too hard for useful browsing functions, it is good practice to place controls for features such as pagination, related searches and sorting options at the bottom of the Webpage.

It is also not a bad idea to add an extra search box at bottom, so that users do not need to scroll back up to the top if they want to conduct a new search.

THE IDEAS ABOVE are just a few of the changes you can make to mobile search – mobile commerce is evolving rapidly, and no doubt there will be new trends and ideas as site search adapts to the mobile revolution.

Keep a close watch on how your customers shop via mobile, so you can quickly respond to new patterns in their shopping habits.

Geoff Brash is cofounder of SLI Systems, San Jose, CA. Reach him at

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