Robert: Welcome to the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast. Today’s guest is Brian Massey. He is an author. He’s a speaker. And he’s also a conversion scientist at conversionscientist.com. Welcome to the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast, Brian. How are you doing?
Brian: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Robert: What do you mean when you say that you are a “conversion scientist”?
Brian: Well, it’s a strange combination of skills and neurosis, quite frankly. We spend our time working on websites, applying scientific methods to websites to find out what we can change that will get more visitors to convert into sales or into leads, depending on what the business’ website is trying to accomplish. It requires technical background, requires some knowledge of user psychology, requires some knowledge of design and a whole lot of patience and statistics to ferret out the things that work, but we are very good at it.
Robert: Yeah, I looked at your website and all the content you guys provide. You do provide a lot of valuable content. You are definitely experts. You have all these different studies, case studies, you do showing expertise, you already have the numbers. And that’s why I’m excited having you on today and excited about the topic we’ll be talking about, since you’re also excited about it and you’re an expert. And we’ll be talking about Mobile Web 2.0, and, to start off, can you just let us know what “Mobile Web 2.0” is?
Brian: Well, I wish I could tell you. The problem with Mobile Web 2.0 is we’re still figuring out what it looks like. But we like that moniker because there’s been many a site you’ve visited and you’ve said “Wow that looks like it was developed in the 1990s.” That was Web 1.0. There were animated gifs and there were different colored fonts, different styles of fonts, things were moving, things were blinking, and it wasn’t very easy to consume the information. But that was our best guess as to what a business website should look like back then. If you use the Way-back Machine and look at sites like Amazon and Apple, you will be shocked at some of the design decisions they made.
We think that in two years, five years—not sure how long it’s gonna take—we’re gonna be doing the same thing with the mobile websites that we’re developing today. We’re gonna look back and go “[wince] Yeah, can you believe we made those kinds of decisions?” and as we’ve begun testing over the last couple of years on the mobile web, we are starting to uncover some of the things that are defining the Mobile Web 1.0 and that we think will be gone by the time we evolved to Mobile Web 2.0.
Robert: And why is this mobile web important? Why should businesses invest to create their websites to have a mobile web presence and also just learn about it and know about it? Why has it come up and why is it so important?
Brian: Well, it’s come up because our job is to find more customers and more leads from the traffic that a website is getting. And right now, when you go and look at the analytics, you got the visitors that are coming to the desktop site or the sites designed for the big screen, and the mobile site which is the template of the site designed for the small screens. You see, number one, that typically mobile traffic is less than desktop traffic. It’s a smaller percentage of the overall traffic. Number two, it converts terribly. It converts at half or a quarter of the rate that the desktop site does. So if the desktop is generating a thousand leads for you a month, or if it’s generating forty thousand dollars in revenue for you, the mobile site is only generating a fraction of that.
And so that leads business owners to say “Well, it much not be all that important. It’s less traffic and it’s not converting well.” The catch is that it is, in almost every industry we’ve looked at, one of the fastest growing. And we believe that if you provide the right mobile experience that you can actually have mobile visitors converting higher. And we actually have clients where we have mobile visitors converting at a higher rate than their desktop visitors. We think that is Mobile Web 2.0, when the mobile screen is the first screen.
We call this the tip of the spear. A lot of times, when I get the idea to find a product like yours or look for a service like yours, I’m doing it standing in line at the bank or I’m doing it while I’m finishing up my lunch, and I pull out my mobile phone and that’s the first time I’m gonna be exposed to you. I’m not gonna convert there, I’ve just begun exploring, and I’ll hopefully, if your mobile site is good, come back on my desktop and finish the search and the transaction. But this is gonna become more and more important. So we’re gonna be designing for the first screen, which is going to be the mobile screen, and then the desktop will be ready to pick up the pieces, rather than the other way around, like we have today.
So your mobile traffic is growing in importance and it’s going to become very important. So you need to figure out what your mobile experience is, your optimized mobile experience is today. Start figuring it out, because there’s some learning to be done around this.
Robert: Okay. And with any business that’s looking into—they start to notice that “Okay, we are getting this mobile traffic,” how can they get started, or what do they need to have in their minds as far as getting started with mobile? Just because this is something new and some businesses are probably hearing it for the first time, or they’ve seen it recently online, it’s trending. And also the fact that you have this big Mobilegeddon that’s happening that Google is, I guess, forcing website owners to think about mobile. So how can business and website owners start on their path to creating a mobile web presence for their website?
Brian: Yeah, so I would love to say that the first step is to hire a company like ours and we’ll test our way to the ideal mobile experience. I think that is something you should do, but right now there is one way of looking at your website that I think will help you immensely, and it is that you don’t really have one website, you have twenty or thirty or forty websites, depending on which device, the size of the screen, the operating system that that device is running, the browser that it’s running. Those four components will actually deliver a very different experience to your visitor, even if you have it optimized for the web, how they come on those different screens, tablet, smartphone—smartphones turn portrait, smartphones turn landscape—is gonna affect their experience.
So if you are beginning to focus on mobile, you need to get on these devices and debug your site. Because you’re gonna find that some device, some operating system, some browser, and some screen configuration is breaking your website. And if you have—most of us have some sort of analytics package that will tell us which devices, screen sizes, and operating systems and browsers are most important. Go and find that top ten that make up most of your traffic—at least 80% of your traffic—and test your site on them, run through it. Especially the important parts where you’re asking them to subscribe or purchase. You’re going to be shocked at where some broken spots are. And if you fix those, you’re gonna instantly begin increasing your conversion rate.
That’s the first thing. And this is essentially gonna change the way you look at your websites.
The next thing I think you should be doing is making sure you are able to track all of that and begin understand how your visitors are using the site. I mean, mobile visitors want a mobile experience and you need to deliver that. And that’s gonna be one of the disadvantages of a responsive website, which we can talk about that. You mentioned Mobilegeddon and Google’s forcing us into mobile. That’s great. Unfortunately, they’re recommending a responsive web design, and our experience is, having tested now quite a bit, that the responsive web design I probably poison to your mobile visitors.
For a lot of reasons. I’ll just hit the highlights. Number one, the load times on responsive websites are significantly higher because it’s generally loading the same components that would be shown on the desktop, and then shrinking them down. Even things that are hidden end up getting loaded in the browser, but just hidden away if it’s on mobile.
Test all of your mobile sites on 3G and 4G connections. Don’t test them in the office on your Wi-Fi. You will be shocked at the difference in performance that you see.
The other thing is responsive websites make bad decisions. The templates make bad decisions about where to place things. Tables break on certain screen sizes. We’ve seen a site that worked great on a tablet, that worked great on a really small iPhone 4 screen, but that broke on an iPhone 6 screen, just because the numbers worked out such that the elements were off. So the responsive templates are not going to make good decisions for you. Popovers are gonna stop working. Live chat stickies are gonna be places in the middle of the screen. Maps are gonna fill the screen and you’re not gonna be able to get away from them.
So there’s so many things that is can do to chase mobile visitors away that we’re not recommending it. We thing that you should have an m-dot experience for mobile and that is going to get you the highest conversion rates and begin to show you what you can be doing for your mobile visitors.
Robert: Okay, so, absolutely. Two questions came up that I’d like to follow up on what you just said. The first one was you said Google is recommending people to use the responsive websites. And you’re saying—in that case, you’re saying you probably don’t use the responsive websites. So if you’re not going to be using the responsive websites, what would you recommend for website owners to do? What should the do instead of responsive? What do they need to do to create that mobile experience for their website?
Brian: Yeah, it’s called adaptive. It’s an adaptive website. So what it means is it’s using the same databases that the desktop website is used on. So it’s using the same backend. For instance, for an ecommerce site, say all the product information is there, but instead of using a responsive design in which as the screen gets smaller, things move around, certain things get removed, some things get shrunk—images are typically shrunk down. Unfortunately a lot of times, buttons are shrunk down as well, and that doesn’t work on mobile. But the smarter ones will actually increase the size of buttons as it determines the screen size is getting smaller.
As I said, the template has to make a lot of decisions for you. Whereas if you create a separate template that is for mobile and you think through “What are the things that we want people to have on mobile?” For instance, I just went on my mobile site tossing up for a webinar that was being given on how—what the best practices are in mobile design. And the service that they used to sign up the webinar took me to a page. The form filled my screen, the blanks were too small to really click on, and I’m on a mobile device. A digital keyboard, which makes it really hard to fill out a form. So a form with—this form had twenty fields. So there’s mobile conversion rate—even though the webinar is about mobile design, their mobile conversion rate was probably close to zero. It was atrocious.
So you could actually make a specific decision. If they had an autofill from LinkedIn for the mobile visitors, then I could have gotten through the form. At least it would have filled out some of the forms for me so I could spend time filling out the others. When you offer a form on a desktop, and then it shrinks down, you get a form on the mobile site. Well, we found that what you really want is a click-to-call. You’re gonna have a significantly higher conversion rate if you just use click to call. And a lot of our clients prefer calls to form-fills.
You want to offer some of these off logins, it’s a different—you’re making different offers to mobile people than you are to desktop people. The responsive design doesn’t—isn’t gonna take that into account. An adaptive design requires you to sit down and think out what’s gonna be on the mobile site and we believe, ultimately, that is gonna be—the leaders in the industry are gonna have designs like that.
Robert: So the adaptive design is kind of like a dedicated website, but just for the mobile.
Brian: That’s right. That’s right. Google says the advantage of a responsive design is you get both of them. When you change something on the desktop, it automatically changes on the mobile. But we know when you change things on the desktop and you don’t go in and make corrections on the mobile that you’re gonna have things break. Some of the things that I outlined earlier. So we’re not buying that responsive is actually better for mobile.
Robert: Okay. So the second question was, going back to the Google, since a lot of people will be following the Google recommendations, they’ll probably be using their Google page speed insights tool. Would you actually recommend that to people or would you tell them just to create the dedicated, adaptive website and not even test it using that page speed insights?
Brian: We think they should be using that tool. That tool provides a lot of great advice. The question is how you get there. So that tool’s telling you when you’ve got fonts that are too small to read for small screens. It’s telling you when your buttons and your link targets are too small to be thumbed. It’s telling you when information is rolled off the screen. Things like that. So it’s a great guide for the developing great mobile interfaces. The only question is that they come to conclusion that, yeah, so if you do a responsive website, that’s the way to solve the problem.
It is a relatively easy way to get a mobile site up, even though you have to redesign the desktop site, which, for many of us, is a disaster. But if that’s the only option you’ve got, a responsive mobile site is better than no mobile site at all. So in that sense, they’re right. But that is a stopgap measure. We all need to be moving onto mobile experiences for our mobile visitors.
Robert: Okay, and earlier on, you had mentioned the user experience. So what type of user experience should website owners have in mind as they design their mobile experience?
Brian: Uhm, well, a lot of what I talked about. The offers and the interfaces with the offers have to be mobile oriented. So you can’t have forms with twenty fields unless you have an amazingly good offer that will get people to do that. All the targets, the fields, the buttons, the blanks need to be large enough for you to hit with a thumb.
And what we’re finding in our testing is that if you kind of look at the things that have won with our customers, we’re kind of finding ourselves going towards mobile apps that look like native apps. So they have a lot of elements that you would find in the native apps, slide-in drawers, sticky header, sticky footers, navigation that slides out when you hit the navigation button. All these things are pretty straightforward to do on the mobile web, but they’re a lot of things that you will see in apps, dedicated apps on these phones.
So that’s kind of a general rule, that’s where we’re going. But change your form to a click-to-call or change your form to an autofill from one of the social networks. Those are the sorts of decisions that a responsive website won’t make that you need to be designing. And I think it’s gonna be different for everybody. A lot of time, you don’t put maps on your desktop site, or you hide them. One a mobile device, maps are really important because, as I’m fond of saying, the word mobile translates directly to lost in like three languages. So people need to know where things are when they’re walking around. So that’s another bit of content you would think through and say “Yes, we need this.”
So I think those are some of the most—every business is gonna be different, and the more time you spend thinking about what is motivating a mobile visitor to reach out to you, the better your response—your interface and your experience is gonna be.
Robert: Okay. And since you are a conversion scientist, we probably need to ask, are there some conversion rate optimization tips you have for people as they’re starting to create their mobile web experience?
Brian: Well, I mean, we are finding the tools that we use for the desktop testing is working very well for us on mobile testing. Aside from kind of the guidelines that I was outline, some of the things that we’re looking at over there, another thing I would consider—actually I might even consider this before you invest in a responsive web design, since you have to redesign everything to move to a responsive web design, is what we call screen hoppers. And that’s where you just provide a popover on your mobile site that admits that you have not optimized for mobile, ask for an email address, and say “We’re gonna send you an email so that when you’re back at your desktop, you can have our premium experience.”
We had a client who had an online tool for designed banner vinyl signs, yard signs, and things like that. There was no way that it was ever gonna work on mobile—they would have to put too much effort into it—so we added this popover, this screen hopper. We had a significant increase, a significant number, significant percentage of the visitors actually sign up. They received the email. The thing we’re working through is they often pick the email up again on their mobile device and came back to the site on their mobile device again, which is not what we wanted. So we have stuff to work some things out, but we thing that the value of the additional emails for this client is gonna be on the order of two hundred thousand dollars a year. So that’s nothing to sneeze at, just for that one little thing. And if we get more of those visitors back to the website on the desktop, the we’ll also generate more of that revenue.
Robert: Okay, and what are some of the tools you think people should be using when they’re testing their website, whether it’s for the desktop or just the mobile?
Brian: Google Analytics does a pretty good job of tracking your desktop, mobile, and traffic for you. It’s a free tool. Almost every website on the internet now has it installed, at least from my telling. So make sure that you have that, or Omniture, or Mix Panel…there are a number of tools that you can use that’ll give you the information. Number one, how of your traffic is mobile, how well is it converting, and which devices, browsers, and screen sizes are people come on? You really need those three pieces of information to really start evaluating your mobile approach.
And then we use the split testing tools and click tracking tools, and screen recording tools that we use are all the same ones that we use on the desktop web. So we like Crazy Egg for heat tracking. We like Inspect Lit or Hut Jar for screen recording—Session Cam is another solution there. For split testing, we like Optimizely, Adobe Target, and Visual Website Optimizer. Convert.com is another nice tool in that space. And these are all the same tools that we’re using on desktop to develop test, launch the tests, and statistically what is going to generate more revenue and what’s gonna generate more leads.
Robert: Okay, Brian, so we’re coming to the end of this recording. We could stay here and talk from hours with mobile, so I really appreciate you coming on and just sharing what you’ve shared. I think what you’ve shared is actually going to help a lot of website and business owners. And if the listeners wanted to find you, maybe give them your Twitter, website, what you’re currently working on, so that if people just want to find you, how can they find you?
Brian: Yeah. Well, I would recommend coming first to our blog, which is at conversionscientist.com, and sampling some of the content and education that we’re—this is—even though this has been an important issue, conversion has been an important issue, since the very first website was launched, we find that we’re having to educate folks on the vocabulary and the tools and the techniques and disciplines. So we do all of that on the Conversion Scientist. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation, go ahead and let’s do that. Go to conversionsciences.com, which is our corporate site, and you’ll be guided there. I’m on Twitter @BMassey, and you will also find me on all of the other social networks as well. Search for Conversion Scientist or Brian Massey.
Robert: Okay, thank you, Brian. Did you have any final thoughts?
Brian: Nope. Resist Google’s recommendation. Think hard before you decide to go with a responsive web design. And shoot me an email or give me a call if you have questions.
Robert: Okay, Brian, that you for being on the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast.