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Michaels’ responsive site lacks streamlined experiences needed for mobile

While arts and crafts retailer Michaels built its new ecommerce site with inspirational content, including projects that are trending on Pinterest, to cater to on-the-go mobile users, the apparent use of responsive design results in a clunky experience for smartphone shoppers, with long load times for pages and overlapping content.

The new site was designed with the goal of simplifying the online shopping experience, which is especially important for mobile users because of the small screen sizes on smartphones. Mobile-friendly features include one-click shopping lists for projects so users do not have to search for various supplies and Favorite Pins, which showcase some of the projects and products from that are trending on Pinterest.

“Retailers watching the meteoric rise of mobile commerce might see ‘shrink to fit’ responsive as a way to kill two birds with one stone,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “This ‘one site fits all’ approach might sound good in concept, but a look at on a smartphone shows some pitfalls of this methodology.

“Images over copy, broken links, images that do not scroll, poor flow, and other issues highlight the challenges of RWD, as the site does not perform optimally for 2 different form factors at the same time,” he said.

Mr. Kerr is not affiliated with Michaels and spoke based on his experience in mobile.

Michaels did not respond to press inquiries.

Michaels Stores Inc. operates more than 1,140 Michaels stores in 49 states and Canada as well as 121 Aaron Brothers stores.

Social shopping
When shoppers on the new Michaels site find a project that they are interested in, they can simply click on it and fill their cart with everything needed to complete the project instead of having to go to multiple pages to select the items they want. This is one example of how the retailer is attempting to meet the needs for mobile users.

Featuring popular Pinterest pins on the site is another example. Here, Michaels is following in the footsteps of a growing number of retailers looking to capitalize on consumers’ strong interest in accessing social content from their mobile devices by taking advantage of Pinterest APIs that were introduced last fall and enable a marketer to feature pins from the social site on their own Web content (see story).

Other retailers taking advantage include Walmart and Target.

“Crafting is inherently a social activity and integrating social media links like Pinterest to allow consumers to spread the work about specific products is a smart move,” Mr. Kerr said. “These ‘mobile influenced’ sales can add up fast.”

Omnichannel experiences
The Michaels site also offers several shipping options for customers to make online shopping more convenient, including free shipping to any U.S. store and free shipping on orders more than $50.

Additionally, online orders can be returned in-store.

To support the launch of the site, Michaels is featuring 21 days of hourly, daily and weekly online specials.

Additionally, customers are being encouraged to share their online Michaels purchases using the hashtag #MichaelsDelivers.

This is not Michaels first foray into mobile.

Last spring, the crafts retailer leveraged SMS to drive donations for an Earth Day-themed campaign while also increasing its number of opted-in consumers (see story).

Michaels has also previously used mobile coupons to drive in-store traffic and QR codes to engage shoppers (see story).

“According to Forrester, mcommerce is expected to increase to 54 percent of all ecommerce by 2018 and generate $414 billion in sales,” Mr. Kerr said. “At Unbound, our clients saw a first-quarter 2014 increase of over 100 percent and we have sites that routinely break 50 percent for mobile traffic.

“Unlike responsive, a dedicated mobile build is designed specifically for the mobile consumer from start to finish, for maximum conversion rates and a positive consumer experience,” he said.

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