The share of the eCommerce sector in German retail is steadily growing. This is gratifying for internet and multichannel retailers, but growing digitization brings with it the challenge that consumers' information and buying processes are increasingly taking place across various devices. Webshop operators therefore need to provide a seamless buying experience – no matter whether the customer is shopping from a computer, a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet. In this area, the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) has published a guide to the principles of successful web design.
The development of new mobile devices is also noticeably escalating the complexity of multichannel business for retailers because no clear trend – settling on smartphones, turning to tablets, or the good old computer – is apparent. For example today, around one out of every ten purchases made from a desktop computer is begun with research on a smartphone. Inversely, three out of five orders made from a smartphone were preceded by an information search with a computer or laptop.
This means that webshop operators need to optimize their products' presentation and usability for the prevailing operating systems and screens, to provide their customers with a seamless customer journey. If a page does not provide a satisfying experience on a smartphone, potential sales can quickly be lost.
Retailers have various possibilities for the mobile optimization of their online appearance and webshops: adaptive and responsive layout, native and hybrid apps, iOS and Android – or a combination of different alternatives.
A mobile website does not necessarily have to fulfill all the functionalities offered by the native website – or be used exactly like applications on the desktop computer. It is worth taking a comprehensive look at the entire lifetime of the application.
Which of the possible design principles is used depends on each application situation. An objective cost-benefit analysis requires a thorough analysis and weighing of advantages and drawbacks, as well as consideration of the website's existing design.
Here, responsive design means equipping all important devices with a design that is perfectly suited to the user context. Additional effort and resources needed in the design and implementation phase can easily be offset by the long-term benefits. Over the long term, significant savings in technical maintenance and editorial upkeep can be achieved, according to the BVDW.
The general trend is towards responsive design – whether a given web retailer opts for a native or hybrid mobile application or a responsive design approach, based on their individual analysis of use scenarios and long-term investment planning.