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Sheri Hebbeln
 
September 11, 2014 | eCommerce , Site Design and Management | Sheri Hebbeln

Your mobile wine store should be well designed.

When creating your online wine store, it is essential to make it accessible to mobile device users. After all, tablets and smartphones combined access the Internet more than computers as of this year. Of course, these devices are very finicky by nature. They have screens that are much smaller than PCs, and their touch-based interfaces function a lot differently from using a keyboard or mouse. These issues, in combination with the unique ecosystems of Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems, make it possible for ecommerce companies to develop special store applications that are separate from the website to provide a more personal and direct shopping. But is it more or less cost-effective than making the website mobile-friendly at the very least? Let's look at the situation for both.

Being responsive in customer support and needs
The primary route that most businesses in ecommerce take is designing a mobile-friendly website that works on all devices and operating systems. These can either take the form of a mobile-specific website or a page with responsive design. The former, as suggested by MultiChannel Merchant, could be considered useful for catering to the very specific nature of the mobile device experience, such as creating tactile buttons for adjusting the quantity of items, optimized page layouts and menus that are designed with context in mind. They tend to load quickly due to having most of the features specifically tweaked for mobile use. However, they may lack complete universal compatibility with all devices and operating systems, and require time and resources to develop to an acceptable level of reach. When there is problem running a function of the site, users might get frustrated and abandon their shopping carts before completing the transaction.

On the other hand, web sites that use responsive design take advantage of HTML5 to create pages that are viewable on any and all devices, according to marketing firm Get Elastic. On smaller screens, the site automatically adjusts to make for a better viewing experience, and sometimes improves the interaction. However, because it is being loaded from the Web, responsive design pages take longer to load. The fact that mobile customers tend to be impulse buyers who want to purchase their bottle of chardonnay for personal reasons means that a longer loading time will wear on their patience. 

Going native
Then, there is the option of creating a native app for iOS or Android and putting it in their stores. There are certain benefits to running an app on a mobile device; namely that the user experience can be optimized for a better, more unique visit. When done right, a winery can create the experience of creating a virtual store that caters specifically to the wine lover's needs, giving it the feel that they're actually in a wine store rather than viewing a Web page.  More importantly, there's the matter of sales: According to Mobile Strategy Partners, iOS users have a higher rate of making purchases at around 30 percent.

However, there are some drawbacks to being able to sell wine online though a native app. According to Get Elastic, the cost of developing an app, especially through a third party as a wine merchant would do, can be very expensive when compared to Web-based development. It is also expensive to maintain with software updates and bug fixing, and users have to constantly update in order to maintain a decent experience. Most importantly, 87 percent of consumers prefer shopping on the web over shopping through an app, according to Zmags. In the long run, a native app may be useful, but for wineries, the best option may be to start with creating a responsive design website that suits the needs of mobile customers.

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