Many Web-Only Retailers Fail to Offer Optimized Mobile Experiences [Study]

The Search Agency today released a new mobile scorecard report, which looked at the Top 100 Web-only retail sites to see how well they fared against key elements in a mobile user’s experience. What it found was that overall, sites did not stack up against the study’s criteria; the average score amongst 100 web-only retailers was only about 2.8 out of 5.

“Businesses that fail to offer optimized mobile experiences may suffer losses, as 57 percent of smartphone users report they would not recommend a website with a poorly designed mobile site,” The Search Agency said in its report.

“This is especially important for web-only retailers, those businesses that sell products primarily online and do not have brick and mortar businesses with physical locations. Businesses that rely exclusively on web purchases might logically have sites that are more highly optimized for mobile devices than brick and mortar or multichannel retailers.”

Here’s a snapshot of the Top 25 Web-only retailers and their scoring positions, according to The Search Agency’s research:


The winner was ecommerce site Nasty Gal, a women’s clothing retailer, with a score of about 4.7. “This site used responsive web design and featured most of the major criteria, showcasing a search box, shopping cart, and sign-in above the fold. An app store prompt is featured prominently at the top and the bottom of the site displays a number of social media buttons,” The Search Agency reported.


And, according to the report, the vertical with the most mobile friendly sites was jewelry. “All the sites in this category either used responsive web design or a dedicated mobile site, and all of the sites loaded in under five seconds. They also consistently displayed the key features that are most important for Web-only retailers,” stated the report.


For this report, The Search Agency weighted home pages of Web-only retailers against factors in its scorecard, such as:

  • Load time
  • Site format
  • Search box
  • Shopping cart
  • Sign in
  • Social media
  • App


Few of the sites examined used responsive design, said The Search Agency, which followed the trend found in previous mobile scorecard reports. “Most major companies continued to opt for dedicated mobile sites or desktop sites over responsive web design when deciding how to render their sites for mobile devices.”


The Search Agency said this could be due to convenience:

“While responsive web design is the ideal way to future-proof a site to appear on all device types, implementing [responsive web design] on an existing site can be costly and labor-intensive, often requiring an entire site redesign or migration. Dedicated mobile sites can be created more easily without having to change the desktop site. Alternatively, allowing the desktop version of a site to render on mobile requires no extra labor but is also the least mobile-optimized choice for a site.”

In light of this findings of this study, The Search Agency shared tips for Web-only retailers to create a better mobile experience for their users:

  • Make the content fit the screen: Consider using responsive web design to ensure the content fits all screens, no matter what the device. Here’s a paper from The Search Agency on that topic.
  • Provide visual cues for ease of navigation: Make sure important information is placed above the fold, and the shopping cart is easily accessible.
  • Make sure your site is fast: Check out these tools and tips from Google on how to examine the speed of your site.

More details are provided in the report, which can be found here.

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