M-Commerce Tips

You probably knew this already, but a lot of people use smartphones to browse the Internet nowadays. The total number of mobile web users is almost constantly increasing, and if you have a website, you may well have noticed that more and more of your traffic is coming from mobile devices.

We'll use ourselves as an example. In April 2012, less than 5% of Designer Websites' total site traffic came from mobile devices. By April 2015, that number was up to 12%. Our total site traffic for April of this year was 32% mobile, meaning that roughly 1 in 3 people who visited www.designer-websites.co.uk this April did so using a mobile device such as a smartphone.

Mobile Usage Graph

Bear in mind that our website is primarily targeted at business owners, most of whom are probably sitting at their desks when they discover us; the spike in mobile use becomes even more pronounced when you look at a more consumer-focused website. Here's what that graph looks like when we take the data from www.gadgetinspector.co.uk, an ecommerce (shopping) website that specialises in gadgets and gifts:

Gadget Inspector - Mobile Usage
Thanks to the Gadget Inspector team for giving us permission to share this data.

Make no bones about it: mobile users are a segment of the market that you can't afford to ignore, especially if you have an ecommerce website. According to pymnts.com, over 18 million consumers in the UK alone are estimated to shop using a mobile device on a regular basis (that's 6 times the entire population of Wales!) and this is an audience whose commerce you may be missing out on if your website isn't offering mobile users a good online experience.

So how can I capitalise on the mobile revolution?

If you're ready to enter the m-commerce market and meet the needs of those 18 million mobile shoppers, there are a few important things you'll want to focus on. Here are our recommendations for ecommerce site owners who want to encourage mobile users to buy from them:

Get a responsive website.

The first and most crucial consideration for any budding m-commerce giant is developing a website that looks good and functions well on mobile devices. There are several different ways to approach this challenge, but we recommend using responsive web design techniques to ensure that your site can adapt smoothly to any screen size. A well-made responsive website will deliver a superb user experience across all devices, from PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets, and it will save you from having to redirect mobile users to a mobile version of your site (e.g. m.example.com) that's separate from - and potentially inconsistent with - the site you're showing desktop users.

Creating an app specifically for mobile users may be a viable alternative to creating a responsive website, but while many businesses choose to explore the app option, this tactic does come with a number of drawbacks. For one thing, forcing mobile users to download an app may put some of them off, as downloading an app (even if it's free of charge) constitutes an extra commitment to your business that many consumers may not be willing to make. It makes sense for an ecommerce Goliath like Amazon to offer an app, as they have many committed customers who will enjoy having that extra convenience, but if your primary goal here is to entice new customers to your business then you're better off letting them discover and access your services via their phones' web browsers instead.

It's also worth noting that, according to searchenginewatch.com, mobile users make more purchases via browsers than via apps anyway. For these and other reasons, we would always recommend creating a responsive website for your business instead of targeting mobile customers with an app, at least in the first instance. The time to start thinking about apps is when you've already got a large base of customers who use their phones to access your business - at that point, perhaps they'll be happy to make that extra commitment in exchange for the added ease of an app.

Keep loading times to a bare minimum.

Nobody likes waiting an eternity for a webpage to load, but long loading times are particularly toxic when your users are on the go. Smartphone users want their content right away, and if you take too long to deliver it, a sizeable chunk of your traffic will bounce back to the search results and end up on a competitor's website instead. This infographic from KISSmetrics contains lots of interesting stats about load times and how they affect user engagement, but perhaps the most compelling titbit is this one:

"A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. If your ecommerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year."

Every second counts in the world of m-commerce, so make use of tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights to ensure that nothing is slowing your website down.

Make the payment process as simple as possible.

Once the user has finished browsing your website and filling their basket with all of your amazing products, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to complete the checkout process and finalise their order. Remember, convenience is key in the mobile market, and just as people won't want to wait ages for your site to finish loading, they might not have the time or the patience to register for an account and fill out loads of little boxes in order to finalise what may have been a spur-of-the-moment purchase in the first place.

So how can you make the last part of the purchasing process quick and painless for your site's users? The key here is payment integration; for example, many people have PayPal accounts, so if you can offer PayPal as one of your payment options you'll potentially save a lot of customers a lot of hassle.

If you allow (or indeed force) users to create an account with your business when they place an order, you may want to review that system before you attempt to conquer the mobile market. The idea with this sort of thing is usually to make life easier for repeat customers; by creating an account, these people are saved from having to enter their payment and delivery details anew each time they buy from you. Registering for an account is inconvenient in the short term because you have to fill out even more boxes, but it's more convenient in the long term because it means that future orders can be completed by simply entering a set of login details.

But here's the thing: the majority of mobile users probably aren't interested in that long-term convenience. They're not planning ahead, thinking of the precious seconds they'll save later if they take the time to register now - they just want to finish what they're doing as quickly as possible and get back to scrolling through Twitter. With this in mind, you may decide that it's better to scrap the 'Create an Account' step altogether, or at least offer an 'Express Checkout' option for users who aren't interested in registering.

HenStuff Checkout Page

Here's an example from the checkout page of www.henstuff.co.uk, an ecommerce website specialising in hen night accessories and party supplies. Registered users simply enter their login details; new customers can either create a new account ('Register Now') or checkout without creating an account ('Express Checkout').

Review and improve!

Websites are often very different  when it comes to how users interact with them, and so it's unlikely that you'll nail the mobile shopping experience right away. That's OK, though - you just need to keep an eye on how people are interacting with your website and make ongoing improvements as necessary. Tools like Google Analytics are great for reviewing mobile use of your website and identifying areas that need work; for example, if a particular landing page has an abnormally high bounce rate on mobile devices specifically, you may want to reassess that page's design and alter it to ensure that your mobile users are getting the same great experience as your desktop visitors.

Need some help with your m-commerce efforts? The Designer Websites team are here to help! Here are some of the services we can provide:

by Joseph Valente, Managing Director of ImpraGas and BBC Apprentice winner 2015

 
Joseph Valente
I'm a big believer in doing things your own way. Here in the UK, you're told from a young age that there's a specific route you're meant to take through life: pass your GCSEs. do your A-levels, go to university and find a job once your degree's in the bag. But I didn't choose that path, and I doubt that my life would be as good as it is right now if I had. Things got off to a bumpy start when I was expelled from school at 15 years old, but this setback quickly turned into an opportunity when a local plumbing company allowed me to join their team. I agreed to work for free because I knew that the experience and the practical skills I stood to gain would be far more valuable than cash in the long run.
 
In 2006, I decided that I wanted to take the next step towards a career as a tradesperson and enrolled on a plumbing apprenticeship course at Peterborough College. After that, I trained in London and became a qualified gas engineer. In 2012 - by which time many of the people I had known in school were graduating from uni and taking their first uncertain steps into the world of work - I took out a £20,000 loan and started my own business, ImpraGas. At first it was just me and my van, but the company soon began to grow, and now I've got a whole team of gas engineers, a fully-staffed office, a fleet of vans, and Lord Sugar as my business partner.
 
Joseph Valente and Lord Sugar
 
The reason I mention all of this is to illustrate that there's always more than one way of doing things. Tradespeople should be more aware of this fact than anyone else: I've spoken to countless people within the plumbing and gas industries, and many of them have stories that are very similar to mine. Taking up a trade often goes hand-in-hand with choosing not to go to uni, and if you were to ask the average tradesman or woman, they'd probably tell you that at some point they made a conscious decision to reject the 'standard' path that goes school > university > job.
 
And yet, for a field that's all about doing things differently, the trade industry is in many aspects surprisingly set in its ways. Most of the tradespeople I meet rely mainly on word of mouth to find new work, and those that do bother to actively promote themselves tend to stick with old-school platforms like newspaper ads and the Yellow Pages. While there's nothing wrong with any of these tried and tested methods (word of mouth in particular will always be valuable in this industry), it seems to me that people are potentially missing out on a lot of lucrative work by ignoring the possibilities the Internet has to offer.
 
We recently relaunched the ImpraGas site with some help from the team at Designer Websites, and I have to say I learned quite a lot over the course of this project. Now that the new and improved version of www.impragas.co.uk is live and we're starting to reap the benefits of all the hard work that went into it, I'd like to share a few suggestions with my fellow tradesmen and women on how they can grow their businesses on the World Wide Web:

Have a website.

Okay, this probably seems blindingly obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many plumbing and heating companies don't even bother to tick this box. Your website should form the foundation of all your online marketing efforts, so make sure you've got one and make sure it represents your business in the best possible light. With more and more people browsing the Internet on smartphones nowadays, it's probably also a good idea to go for what's called a responsive website (a site with a flexible design that changes to fit the screen you're viewing it on).

Get on Google.

Instead of leafing through the Yellow Pages every time they need a plumber, most people these days just go to Google. If your website's done right and properly optimised, you'll hopefully get some referrals from Google anyway, but the most important thing for tradespeople is to get listed with Google My Business. There's no fee for this; all you have to do is fill in some basic details about your company - what you're called, where you're based, what area(s) you cover - and Google will start including you in its local results when somebody nearby searches for the service you provide. You know when you Google something and the first thing you see is a map with local businesses dotted around it? If you want your company to show up on that map, signing up with Google My Business will give you a much better chance of getting there.

Google Local Results

Sign up for social media.

There are a lot of people on sites like Facebook and Twitter. A lot of them are probably located near you, and some of them could one day be among your most loyal customers. Set up a Facebook business page and ask all your friends to 'Like' it, then create a Twitter account and get involved in the conversations that are local to you and/or relevant to your trade. Both Facebook and Twitter are free to use, so what have you got to lose?

Get people to link to your website.

There are two reasons to ask people to link to your site. The most obvious benefit of a link is that people might click it, take a look at your site, and perhaps end up giving you a call or sending the link to their friend who needs a new boiler. But links are also important in the eyes of Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. As far as they're concerned, when somebody links to your website they're basically giving you a seal of approval, and the more seals of approval you get, the more confidence Google and the others will have in your company and its website. This will mean that you're more likely to show up towards the top of Google's results pages. That being said, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to links, and it's EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to make sure you're not getting links from websites that are spammy or low-quality as these can actually do more harm than good as far as your Google rankings are concerned. You ideally want links from popular, high-quality websites that are reasonably relevant to the field you're in.

Britain is still suffering from a skills shortage at the moment, so there's lots of work out there for skilled, qualified tradespeople like us. However, we as an industry need to realise that an overwhelming majority of people now use the Internet to find the right person for their job, and if we're not willing to embrace the online revolution and make an effort to be seen online then we'll quickly get overtaken by other tradespeople who are.
 
If you need a website designer or someone who can assist with your company's online marketing efforts, I'd strongly recommend that you contact the team at Designer Websites. They're friendly, they're professional, and they're exceptionally skilled at what they do - click here to request a quotation for your project.

BBC Apprentice Winners

ImpraGas website

If you watched the latest series of The BBC Apprentice last year, you'll probably remember Joseph Valente: he's the plumber from Peterborough who triumphed over dating expert Vana Koutsomitis in the final and won a £250,000 business investment from Lord Sugar.

Lord Sugar and Joseph Valente

Joseph's business - the one that benefited from Lord Sugar's £250k investment - is named ImpraGas, and we're pleased to report that the company's brand new website went live at the end of last week. ImpraGas offer an elite boiler installation service to customers right across the UK, and we believe that the website we have designed for them (www.impragas.co.uk) will help the business to scale new heights and reach countless new customers nationwide.

Among other useful features, the new and improved ImpraGas website boasts a sophisticated yet straightforward boiler quote builder that allows potential customers to get an accurate boiler quotation in minutes. This tool is incredibly easy to use - all you have to do is answer a few simple questions (e.g. 'How many bathrooms does your home have?' 'Whereabouts is your current boiler located?'), and you'll be presented with a quotation for your new boiler based on the information you've supplied. Easy!

Here's what Joseph Valente himself had to say about his company's new website:

"When I won The BBC Apprentice in late 2015, I knew that it was the beginning of a bright new chapter for my business. With this in mind, we decided that it was time to give the ImpraGas website a makeover; the old site had served us well, but it was clear that we'd have to up our game if we were going to achieve the results we wanted. I knew that Designer Websites had worked with a couple of BBC Apprentice winners in the past, and so they were an obvious first port of call for us – after one meeting, I was certain that DW were the company for me. Their previous work really impressed me, and it was great to meet people who knew how to be both professional and totally approachable.

"Collaborating with Designer Websites to create the new ImpraGas site has been a really great experience. They were always ready to listen to our ideas, and they paid close attention to all the feedback we gave them. One of my concerns going into this project was that our web designers would just churn out a site without really thinking about whether or not it suited the business, but I could tell very early on that Designer Websites weren't that sort of organisation – they really went above and beyond to ensure they understood what we were going for and how the online stuff would fit into our operation as a whole.

"Having seen the finished website, I have to say I'm over the moon with the job that DW have done. It's professional, it's modern, and I think our customers are going to find it a joy to use. I particularly like the boiler quotation system, which allows people to get an accurate quote for their new boiler by simply answering a few quick questions on the website. All in all, I'm completely satisfied with the new ImpraGas website and I'd be only too happy to recommend DW to any business looking to revamp their website."

- Joseph Valente, Managing Director of ImpraGas

Huge thanks to Joseph for such a glowing review. This is actually the third time we've developed a website for a BBC Apprentice winner - we also worked with science recruitment specialist Ricky Martin to create the Hyper Recruitment Solutions website, and with Dr Leah Totton to build a site for her cosmetic skin clinics. We're very proud of our track record, and we're pleased to say that both Ricky and Dr Leah were just as pleased with our work as Joseph!

If you'd like to us to design and develop a new website for your business, click here to request a quotation or give us a call on 01446 339050 today.
Google Search Console

Google Search Console (formerly know as Google Webmaster Tools) is an indispensable tool for site owners who wish to maximise their organic Google traffic. Search Console effectively allows you to view your site through the eyes of the search engine, so you can see which pages Google has indexed, which pages it thinks could be improved, and which potentially problematic errors it has spotted.

There are roughly two dozen different sections within Search Console, some of which deal with fairly complex stuff. For this reason, Search Console can be a little overwhelming when you see it for the first time, particularly if you don't know what phrases like 'structured data' and 'robots.txt' mean.

It's a good idea to learn about each section and check them all on a regular basis. However, if you're just starting out with Search Console and you only want to see the most important pieces of information for now, here are 5 key areas that you should be keeping a close eye on - we recommend checking each of these at least once a week to ensure that your website remains in tip-top condition.
Messages

1. Messages

If you only ever look at one part of your Search Console account, make sure it's the Messages window. If anything serious happens in any of the other sections - for example, if there's a sudden influx of crawl errors, or if Google's crawlers are unable to access your site - you'll get a message to notify you about the problem, and this is where you'll find it.

HTML Improvements

2. HTML Improvements

This part of the Console is all about your website's title tags and meta descriptions. Google will put a note in this section if it spots any of the following issues on your site:
  • A page's title tag is too long or too short.
  • A page's meta description is too long or too short.
  • A page doesn't have a title tag.
  • Multiple pages have the same title tag and/or meta description (duplication).
  • A page has a title tag that Google considers 'non-informative'.
  • Google finds some content on your site that it cannot index.
It's a good idea to stay on top of these issues and fix them as soon as they arise (this is usually a question of simply rewriting the title tag or meta description in question). Good-quality title tags and meta descriptions will benefit you in two ways: firstly, they will encourage people to click on your site when it appears in Google's search results, and secondly, they will help Google itself to identify which term(s) it should list your site for.

Mobile Usability

3. Mobile Usability

More and more people are using mobile devices to browse the Internet these days, so it's important to make sure that your site is providing a good experience for mobile and tablet users as well as for PC owners. In the Mobile Usability section of your Search Console, Google will flag up any issues that might affect your site's performance on smaller screens (if you have a responsive website design, this section should be clear at all times).

Index Status

4. Index Status

How many of your website's pages does Google actually have indexed? To discover the answer to this question, simply head to the Index Status section of your Search Console. You'll be presented with a number (e.g. Total indexed: 100), along with a line graph showing how your site's index status has fluctuated over the past 12 months.

Index Status Graph

If this graph shows a sharp drop, you may need to do some further investigation to find out why. If you've recently removed a lot of pages from your site, then the drop may not be a problem - it could simply mean that Google is no longer indexing all those old URLs that no longer exist. Conversely, it may be that Google has de-indexed large swathes of your site because it decided that a lot of your pages were too similar to one another, in which case you'll need to do some work on your site copy in order to get everything indexed again!

Crawl Errors

5. Crawl Errors

When Googlebot attempts to crawl one of your pages and something goes wrong, this is where you'll be told about it. Search Console's Crawl Errors section lists:
  • 'Not found' URLs (i.e. URLs on your site that go to 404 error pages)
  • 'Server error' URLs (i.e. URLs on your site that trigger a server error)
  • Blocked URLs (i.e. URLs on your site that Googlebot is blocked from accessing)
  • 'Soft' 404 errors (i.e. URLs that don't exist, but don't return a 404 error for some reason)
When an old URL shows up in the Crawl Errors section, it often means that there's still a link to it somewhere, even though the page itself has been taken down. You may also see misspelled URLs here if somebody typed your page's URL wrong when they linked to you. This is another section that it's really important to check frequently, especially if you have a large ecommerce website with a large, ever-changing range of products on it - errors can pile up very quickly on sites like these, fast becoming totally unmanageable!

Sitemaps

6. Sitemaps

Once of the first things you should do upon logging into Search Console for the first time is head to the Sitemaps tab and submit the URL of your website's sitemap file (e.g. www.example.com/sitemap.xml) to Google. This will help the big G to index all of your pages a little faster. You should also update and resubmit your sitemap file every time you add or remove pages on your website - resubmitting in these cases is a good way of notifying Google that there's something new to see, or that some of the pages they've currently got indexed are no longer in use.

Google may occasionally spot an error in your sitemap file, and if this happens they will notify you in the Sitemaps section. Sitemap errors most commonly occur when you delete a page but forget to remove its URL from your sitemap file. Errors can usually be fixed by simply regenerating the sitemap file and resubmitting it in Search Console.

Need help looking after your website? Struggling to figure out why you're not showing up in Google results? Our search engine optimisation experts can help - get in touch today!