Developing Modern Mobile Solutions for eCommerce Marketing Campaigns
In today’s online retail market, providing promotional material for users of an eCommerce site has become much more complicated than in the past. While it used to be that managing the content of a site meant creating a new sale campaign and simply running it, with the advent of mobile devices, more considerations need to happen.
Below are some topics to consider when running mobile marketing campaigns, and the pros of and drawbacks to each.
- Pros: If your campaign doesn’t require anything but the appearance of your promotional material to change for different screen sizes, one of the most simple and practical solutions is to implement a responsive design. This solution works well when the functionality, design and user experience is similar across all devices and your marketing content doesn’t change between mobile or desktop customers.
- Drawbacks: With responsive design, you can use the same code for every device and modify only the presentation style using CSS. This solution can be quick and simple to implement, but is more restrictive in the scope of what it offers. This solution is often combined with one of the following approaches to provide a broader scope for your marketing campaigns.
- Pros: If you are running a campaign for a certain user, say iPhone users, developers of your site would need to use a browser or device detection technique. This enables the developer to determine the software the customer is using to visit the site and to provide a different and welcoming experience to customers based on that information.
- Drawbacks: One of the major drawbacks of user agent sniffing is that many times it is abused to provide functionality or feature changes which it is not really meant to handle. Providing functionality based on user agents is generally considered a poor development practice, since it encourages browser-specific design and penalizes browsers and devices with unrecognized user agent data. In most cases the developer should be developing the website so the code behaves correctly on every device.
Utilizing user agent sniffing to detect a device and activate a targeted marketing campaign would be one way to use the feature as it was intended to be used as it does not attempt to change any of the core functional components of your site. However, this solution can require a degree of maintenance to remain relevant. As new devices (and updates to existing devices) become available, they sometimes include new versions of web browsers. Because of this, the browser detection code must be reviewed and potentially updated to support any new browser. This would be necessary to keep any of your campaigns which are targeting those devices relevant.
- Pros: Most times, the device or browser being used to access your site is not as important as the features which that browser or device supports. Here are some examples of specific feature support for which you may want to test:
- High-resolution displays (retina)
- Touch-enabled (tapping and swiping the screen, for example)
- Certain modern CSS/HTML features such as animation, shadows, or rounded corners
Detecting these features can allow you to provide different functionality on your site. Being able to detect a touch device, for example, can change the way a customer interacts with the promotional material you provide through your marketing campaigns. Feature detection is one of the best solutions for situations where a consistent behavior is required for the customer’s user experience, regardless of the browser or device used.
- Drawbacks: While feature detection is great, it also does come with its own set of issues. Development time is extended, because you need to implement many different solutions based on whether a feature is available. Another potential drawback is that utilizing feature detection on your site and providing the needed fallback code can result in a more bloated application, and therefore impact the load speed and performance of the site.
I’ve reviewed some of the most important considerations and marketing solutions for today’s online retailer. Which solutions you choose to implement are highly dependent of the goal you are striving to achieve. Also remember that the higher the impact and potential degree of variability within the user experience of your marketing campaign, the more time the solution will take to implement due to the additional challenges presented to your development team. Take some time to think about the types of promotional marketing campaigns you would like to offer as far in advance as possible and plan for the development and implementation for such features accordingly. With the right amount of planning and consideration for the needs of your customer, these modern techniques to developing your marketing campaign can offer an almost endless degree of opportunities to you and your customers.
Matt Rose is a Technical Lead and Chief Front-End Developer at LYONSCG, where he has been a part of the eCommerce Implementation Team for nearly 4 years. During that time, he has worked with the Demandware platform, and helped to launch 37 unique brand websites. Before coming to LYONSCG, Matt worked in higher education as a LAMP developer for 6 years and has also worked as a freelance web developer for almost 12 years. Matt lives in southern Wisconsin with his family: his wife and 2 young boys.