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Bare Necessities exec: Responsive design unproven to accelerate commerce

While many retailers favor using responsive design to create mobile versions of their desktop Web sites, Jay Dunn, chief marketing officer at Bare Necessities, Edison, NJ, took the contrarian view during the “Is Responsive Design Part of Your Mobile Strategy?” session. Responsive design may be a big thing for 2014, but that may not mean it is right for every retailer, according to Mr. Dunn.

“There’s no evidence that responsive design will drive sales,” Mr. Dunn said. “But the retailer should focus on what always has driven sales, which is product, place and the strength of their brand.

“Responsive design is too new for any one to know yet, so I can’t say that it doesn’t [drive sales],” he said. “I want to keep in mind it’s the early stages.”

Many sizes
Nowadays consumers browse mobile devices and shop online and possibly in-store before making a purchase. In response, retailers seek to make the multi-device path to purchasing as easy as possible.

Panelists discussed whether and how responsive design is making it easier for retailers to leverage content across various devices during the session.

Starbucks’ responsive design Web site

Responsive design involves creating a Web site that looks similar and can be viewed across numerous devices, from a small smartphone to a large desktop screen.

Responsive design sites are intended to be easy to read and navigate.

With responsive design, one set of code adapts for desktop and mobile sites, making them easier to maintain.

The panel moderator and two other executives focused mainly on responsive design’s strengths, such as consistency across various size Web sites, including on smartphones, tablets and laptops.

However, Mr. Dunn pointed out some challenges, such as long development times and slow loading times

The right fit
Panelist Dennis Rohm, chief technology officer at Indochino Apparel, Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, said his company was an early adopter of responsive design, launching it more than one year ago.

“In that year and a half, the technology has grown leaps and bounds,” Mr. Rohm said.

Jill Renslow, vice president, business development and marketing at Mall of America, Bloomington, MN, said the mall decided to outsource its responsive Web site to cut down on the confusion involved in streamlining content.

“We have a team that really understands the brand and really understands the strategy,” she said. “We look at ourselves internally as the brand ambassadors.”

According to Ms. Renslow, it is important for consumers to have a consistent Mall of America experience, whether they are surfing its mobile Web site on their smartphones or shopping in one of the mall’s many stores.

Responsive design has received mixed reviews, depending on retailers.

Last November, a Tria Beauty executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall Summit said that even though responsive design was a good first step for a mobile site, the format actually caused her conversion rates to drop 50 percent.

In that online retailer’s situation, there were features on the main site that did not translate well (see story).

Moderator Aaron Cuker, CEO of Cuker Interactive, Solana Beach, CA, said retailers should take it for granted that consumers will be showrooming while shopping in-store. They can address this by having an easy-to-maneuver digital responsive Web site.

“It’s safe to say that if you’re running a bricks-and-mortar store, 65 percent of your consumers will be on smartphones,” Mr. Cuker said. “It’s safe to assume your consumers will pull out their phones when shopping in your store.

“Ninety percent of smartphone shoppers use their smartphones pre-purchase,” he said. “[Consumers] can now shop conveniently on the go, no matter what [they’re] doing.

“A mobile Web site makes sense in that scenario,” Mr. Cuker said.

Final Take
Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York