Stacey Hailes explores what the ‘significant’ changes to Google’s search algorithm mean for the jewellery industry’s online presence.
On April 21, Google made a significant alteration to its search algorithm that has spelled changes for e-tail businesses, brands and retailers that do not have mobile- compliant websites.
The update altered the way Google ranks search results, making non mobile- friendly sites more difficult to find when someone does a search on a mobile device. For example, when somebody searches for ‘engagement rings’ only those sites optimised for mobile use will now appear at the top of the list.
You may be thinking, ‘why do I need to worry about this?’ Well, in 2015 over 50% of searches carried out on Google are done on a mobile device, proving just how crucial mobile has become as a tool for businesses. Those who’ve not yet jumped on the band wagon could be losing essential visitors.
The search engine’s changes reinforce the importance of a mobile focus and have been designed to help users find results formatted to their device. According to Google, because more searches are done via mobiles than on desktop computers, it wants to make sure it’s offering users the best experience possible.
At the moment non mobile-friendly sites appear on a mobile device as a shrunk down and ill-formatted version of the desktop site. This makes it hard for viewers to click on links and find their way around the site easily. Certainly this is an annoyance for a generation who wants the world instantly at their fingertips and may not have the patience for non-compliant websites.
According to mobile shopping platform Mobify, the number of smartphone users is predicted to hit 5.9bn in under five years. Similarly, 68% of consumers say it is ‘somewhat’ or ‘very important’ that the companies they interact with are seen as tech leaders. Plus, Mobify outlines that smartphones and tablets together account for 70% of a brand’s digital engagement time with consumers and not having a mobile-compliant website is like closing your store one day per week.
In addition the British Retail Consortium’s Google Online Retail Monitor for Q1 2015 cited a 44% increase in smartphone searches for engagement rings and a 41% increase in phone searches for jewellery in general. While the report highlighted mixed results for tablet searches, with search volumes for engagement rings dipping by 9%, it did state that tablet searches for jewellery rose by 12%.
On top of all this, according to a recent report from the Interactive Media in Retail Group, click and collect services have continued to increase in popularity at a growth rate of 20% per year.
As a mobile device is considered anything not fixed to a wall, not having a mobile-friendly site shuts out more customers than many companies realise.
Social media expert Mike O’Keefe, from social media training and management company Look-C, explains: “According to Google there are windows when mobile devices are used. That’s early morning before 9am because people are travelling to work, lunch time between 12 and 2 and after 5pm. It normally peaks around 8pm, which is when people go home. So [if your site is not mobile compliant] you’re cutting out a huge potential market place.
“Although Google are saying it shouldn’t affect your desktop, if over half the people on the internet are look ing on mobile devices and your switching those off because your website is not mobile compliant, your website is going to lose potentially over half its visitors. So, Google will look at it and say you are not as busy as you once were and your desktop version will be impacted because that will start dropping down the rankings too.”
O’Keefe concludes: “It’s imperative, you’ve got to get a mobile version.” Google claims the solution is easy, advising those with non mobile-compliant websites that whether you’re a beginner or an expert you can make your site great for mobile visitors. If you’re not sure whether your site is mobile-friendly or not Google has an easy-to-use test that will analyse your site and tell you what any potential problems are.
O’Keefe says you can build your website from scratch or create a separate site from your desktop. There are websites such as Duda that can help you do this if you don’t want to invest heavily in making changes.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside, says: “With the rapid growth in omnichannel retailing, shoppers here in Britain and overseas are making greater use than ever of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to buy online. Every retailer, large and small, should give serious consideration to having an online presence to ensure they can compete and grow their business.
“The internet offers great opportunities to businesses wishing to reach new customers both at home and abroad, however in order to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that online retailing offers, businesses must ensure they have both the right tools (website and social media) and also the skills and expertise in-house to maximise their effectiveness.”
Aside from hopefully boosting traffic and in turn increasing sales, other benefits to mobile-friendly sites include a better visual representation of your company on mobile devices, improved functionality and call to action. For ex ample if a visitor clicks on a phone number on a website their mobile will start calling straight away.
Online diamond jewellery retailer Serendipity Diamonds introduced its mobile-optimised website in 2013. This was not a separate mobile website, but rather an existing design that reacts accordingly for mobiles devices, creating the best user experience possible. This year the company restructured its site for a second time to create an even more responsive website for its users.
Serendipity Diamonds owner Mark Johnson explains: “All of our services have been made mobile friendly and we have also reduced our checkout process for ease of use which in turn increases conversion rates.”
Talking about the Google changes Johnson adds: “I don’t think that ‘Mobilegeddon’ as some phrased it, hit in the way that many marketers predicted but the changes to make websites more mobile friendly certainly moves in the right direction. Most website owners will now see a section within their Google Webmaster Tools accounts providing information on how mobile friendly their websites are. It is important for business owners to have access to these details. Unfortunately many website owners rarely look at their Webmaster Tools or Analytics accounts — free software that Google provides which gives all website owners detailed information on where their traffic is coming from.”
He continues: “With most consumers browsing and purchasing on smartphones, retailers really need to consider how mobile friendly their websites are. My advice would be to try to create a mobile website that retains the information, look and feel of your desktop website. Don’t give mobile users less. Spend time considering design and user experience without being panicked into a hastily and poorly built mobile site.”
Lily Kamper, Johnson Jewellers, Buckley London and Birmingham Assay Office are among those who have already revamped their sites. Buckley London responded to the rise of mobile browsing to move to a responsive website that re-styles itself depending on the device it is being viewed on. Birmingham Assay Office did the same whilst also offering visitors new features including the ability to register and pay for hallmarks.
Designer Lily Kamper’s new website was made by Work til Late, a creative agency that specialises in developing and implementing innovative concepts and visual identities. Work til Late partner Amy Downes comments: “With ecommerce, designers and makers have a new potential at their fingertips to make and manage sales themselves without relying on physical shops, so it’s really important that the shopping experience is both easy and enjoyable.
“When we were planning the design and build of Lily Kamper’s website, we were sure that the responsiveness of the site should lead – we let the build of the site be led by the device that is most common – the mobile phone. This meant making some decisions that might feel uncomfortable [on desktop], for example, keeping the menu points shorter and more concise.”
Downes adds: “The recent changes to Google searches mean that now more than ever, responsiveness of websites is important, so it’s the perfect time for jewellery designers to take the plunge and update their sites in order to encourage more browsing and online shopping. Desks mean work, and browsing for luxury goods is generally something people do for pleasure, so it is even more likely that they will do this from the comfort of their sofa or over a coffee in a café — on their tablet or phone.”
Honing in on the experience of a luxury brand, Theo Fennell’s web and digital manager, Fiona Morrison, says: “The fact that 25% of UK consumers shop in bed shows just how intimate a shopping space M-commerce is. As a luxury brand focused on individualisation and personalisation, mobile is an incredibly powerful way for us to maintain a personal, direct approach online in what can sometimes seem like a vast, impersonal space dominated by social, and not personal, interaction.”
As the wonders and possibilities of technology are ever-expanding, building mobile-compliant websites is a good place to start making businesses accessible, functional and pleasurable to the mass market of online visitors.
This article originally appeared in the June issue of Professional Jeweller. Read it online here.
Picture credit: Shutterstock