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Urban Outfitters’ Free People relaunches mobile site to tackle declining results

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November 6, 2014

The new Free People mobile site

The new Free People mobile site

Urban Outfitters brand Free People hopes to turn around dropping mobile Web conversions and page views with a recently revamped site boasting bigger and more visuals, off-screen navigation and a streamlined checkout while simultaneously reducing code volume to minimize the impact on performance.

In an exclusive interview with Mobile Commerce Daily, Free People’s director of marketing and ecommerce Jed Paulson discusses why the brand felt it needed a better mobile Web experience that would more closely match its other digital offerings. At the same time, Free People also recognized the need to insure that page load times and overall performance did not take a big hit.

“What we were also seeing over the course of the last year was decreased page views on the previous version of the mobile site – that had us a little concerned,” Mr. Paulson said. “The goal was to get people to view more pages because when they do that, they end up buying more things.

“In terms of traffic overall, what we are seeing, like much of the industry, is more sessions to the mobile side versus the desktop,” he said. “We are seeing the same thing with our email, with open rates on mobile starting to reach the same percentage as open rates on desktop.

“We know lots of people are accessing the mobile site, whether it is through email, social media or through Google searches on their phones.”

Consistent experiences
Mobile is a priority for Free People, as the brand targets young women with its assortment of apparel and accessories.

Two years ago, Free People put a lot of focus on building a strong iOS experience.

However, the brand had not done much over the past five years to enhance its mobile site.

free people 2

While it is not unusual for mobile site conversion rates to drop somewhat as traffic grows – something many retailers are experiencing these days on the mobile Web – Free People saw the need for a revamp in order to provide its audience with the best possible experience.

One of the goals was create a more consistent experience across all of the brand’s platforms, including fonts, graphics and the navigation experience.

Strong visuals
Free People has a very visual desktop experience and wanted to bring some of this quality to the mobile Web experience, which previously had smaller and fewer images. Additionally, the previous site had fewer graphics overall as well as fewer navigation elements, forcing browsers to use the search bar.

The brand also put thought into insuring that the site would not have any performance issue. While it did have compromise on speed somewhat because of the larger images, this was mitigated by a comprehensive overhaul that included being able to get rid of some coding.

FP_Mobile_Old[1]

The old Free People mobile site.

The home page is one of the biggest changes between the old and the new site.

Now, when browsers arrive, they can see the different trends the brand is offering. This is important, as Free People launches a different unique trend each week, something that previously was not found on the mobile site.

Additionally, users can slide through to view all images in lookbooks or trends. Previously, only one image was available for viewing.

Trade-off
Another change is the availability of off-screen navigation, with browsers able to click on an icon in the upper left-hand corner to access all of the navigation. Previously, the navigation lived on the home page and took over the user experience when browsers tried to use it.

As a result, browsers relied more on search than navigation, which created a more time-consuming experience in many cases.

The new site also features more products on browsing pages and better filter options.

Additionally, the checkout was refined to make it faster and users can now edit items in the cart quickly.

“We did increase the size of the images and we have seen a slight decrease in the responsiveness because of it,” Mr. Paulson said.  “But overall through our performance testing, we are not dissatisfied by it.

“That was a trade-off we knew we were making,” he said. “We could have a bare mobile site that was super, super performing but may not deliver the same experience for the customer.

“We found some benefits in that the code we had been relying on before had grown a lot with a lot of JavaScripts and CSS files that were starting to get larger and larger. So, as we did the redesign, we were able to thin out a lot of unnecessary lines of code.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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