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Responsive Web shifts conversion power from iOS to Android

SAN ANTONIO, TX ? Although panelists at eTail West 2014 remained split on the investments and benefits needed to pour into responsive design, some brands such as Travelocity are seeing success with the Web development technique in moving mobile transactions from iOS to Android for the first time.

Responsive design was a recurring topic in several sessions yesterday, but executives from Vistaprint, Travelocity and Motorcycle Superstore dived into the issue during the ?Is Responsive The Wave of The Future?? session. Travelocity originally began rolling out a responsive strategy last year as a way to deal with the more than 1,500 different screen sizes that were coming into the site.

?I?m seeing Apple iOS-oriented traffic is still the majority, slightly, but interestingly enough, I?m now seeing since we went responsive that Android conversion rates are higher than iOS for the first time,? said Joshua Bright, mobile product manager at Travelocity, Southlake, TX.

?Understanding though that what I?m talking about is smartphones and seven-inch tablets ? that is not with the iPad,? he said.

Responsive design
Travelocity's experiments with responsive design are limited to smartphones and seven-inch tablets, which could possibly be why Travelocity has seen an increase in responsive design.

Three lines of business ? air, hotel and car ? have been converted over to responsive design. For all three categories, there has been a minimum of a 15 percent increase in conversion rates.

Additionally, the online travel agency developed a mobile-first strategy in how Web content is created with responsive design in mind.

?For us, the way that we approached it was mobile-first and how it breaks down is you can get a small form factor first and then you build it up,? Mr. Bright said.

?The easiest way for arguing why this is the greatest way of doing it is that it?s very difficult to pack items into a box that is smaller,? he said. ?Just thinking about it from a simplistic standpoint really puts you ahead of the curve and saves you from a lot of arguments down the road.?

At the same time, Travelocity has prioritized text in the new site versus richer forms of media such as pictures, meaning that a responsive site might not be best for brands that rely on visual-heavy content and multimedia.

One of the best use cases around developing mobile-first responsive Web content is around the homepage, according to Jason Miller, former vice president of technology at Motorcycle Superstore, Medford, CT.

Creating a homepage for a responsive design in mobile first forces marketers to prioritize what the No. 1 piece of content is that consumers are looking for.

Additionally, marketers should mix up which metrics they look at to guage the success of a responsive site.

For example, Mr. Miller said that load time is important, but visually complete is more important because it represents the total time for all images and content to load.

Not a one-size-solution
One of the other points brought up during the session was that purely relying on one type of technology does not work.

Adaptive Web design uses device detection to serve up content to create specific content that is geared towards a type of handheld.

On the other hand, responsive uses CSS to change around images and flow.

?When we first went down the mobile path, we took an adaptive route, and it was very clear that if we were going to continue down that path, we were going to make a much larger investment in our capabilities teams, in our creative and on our marketing teams, so we decided it wasn?t sustainable ? it wasn?t going to work for us,? said Aaron Shimoff, manager of mobile strategy at Vistaprint, Venlo, Netherlands.

According to Mr. Shimoff, responsive design does not solve all of the company?s business challenges.

For example, one of the business needs is making sure that a consumer does not need to pull down heavy images from mobile devices.

To tackle this challenge, the company coined the term ?pragmatic design? so that the default option for the site connects to a responsive experience. If consumers are trying to access image-heavy content though, the site flips into device-detection mode to serve up the content through adaptive Web design.

Additionally, Vistaprint is addressing the challenges around responsive and adaptive design is with mobile-specific content.

The Vistaprint executive said that responsive Web requires a 20-25 percent increase in incremental effort. However, with more possible break points with responsive than a mobile or Web site, it may be a risk that marketers are willing to make.

Building responsive emails
During the ?Is there an email renaissance upon us?? keynote panel, Andrew Briggs, director of consumer marketing at Zazzle, Redwood City, CA, said that initial tests with responsive design did not work for the company.

Zazzle tested responsive design for two months in emails but has since moved on to other priorities.

?We stopped doing it because it kept crashing and burning for us,? Mr. Briggs said.

?Even when we were sending to mobile customers specifically ? we were targeting based on device, too, so we were really segmenting all the way down ? we still saw better opens and clicks with non-responsive emails than we saw with responsive,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York