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M-Commerce Insights: An interview with Booktopia CTO Wayne Baskin

14th January 2016
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When planning their online presence, many retailers have switched their first priority from desktop sites to mobile. As mobile devices get bigger and more powerful, and consumer purchases via mobile increase, it is clear that this shift cannot be ignored.

We recently spoke to Wayne Baskin Chief Technology Officer at Booktopia –  Australia’s leading online book store. Wayne is responsible for development and maintenance of Booktopia’s website, mobile site and downloadable app, as well as playing a key role in the design and implementation of business algorithms and user interfaces.

He has been named as one of Australia’s best and brightest in online retail, making Inside Retail’s Top 50 People in eCommerce List in 2015.

With that knowledge in mind, what are his views on the need for mobile inclusion?

“A question I used to get asked was: when is it important for a company to have a mobile site? I think we’d all agree we’re past that” he says.

“If you don’t have a mobile site now, even Google’s punishing you – so your SEO rankings on desktop are going to suffer.”

The Benefits of Going Mobile

To avoid the clear drawbacks of search engine penalisation, having a mobile site is essential. Business owners will find a responsive mobile site will extend their reach and generate more opportunities. But is it worth it for everyone? Wayne says it’s hard to say:

“Look at the fashion retailers, they’re dominated by mobile users – they have more mobile users than they do desktop. Then look at our industry of books – desktop is still way above the number of mobile users. Every industry is different and every website is different.”

Smart phone online shopping in man hand. Shopping center in background. Buy clothes shoes accessories with e commerce web site

To determine whether your site could benefit from mobile optimisation, Wayne suggests using your conversion rate as a deciding factor. He recommends aiming for a mobile site with around three quarters of the conversion rate of your desktop site.

“The reason I say that” he explains, “is I find a lot of the users on a mobile device are just browsing to kill time, they’re really not planning on converting, maybe they’re doing some research, maybe to browse, maybe they’re inside a store.”

Ready, Fire, Aim!

If you’ve established that your brand is in need of a mobile site, getting it up and running should be a priority. Wayne says “go with whatever your developer tells you is the easiest and quickest because you need a mobile site asap.” Changes can always be made later.

Once your mobile site is up and running, it’s important to use analytics to determine the impact the site is having on your business. Wayne explains the key metrics he examines are conversion rate and bounce rates. These can then be split by device type, time spent on the site and the number of pages to give you an idea of how mobile friendly your site really is.

To App or not to App

It’s not just mobile sites that are progressing. Now smartphone devices are ubiquitous, many brands and retailers are choosing to include a dedicated app in their online marketing strategy.

“I believe there’s a need for an app only when there’s a specific purpose,” Wayne says. “Our Booktopia app has a purpose to our reader. They can buy ebooks, download the app and those ebooks are ready to read. Our app is there simply to facilitate the reading of ebooks and our key focus is really on converting those customers on the mobile site.”

In contrast, he explains “if an app is just a replica of an online site or mobile experience, there’s no need to invest the time or money.”

Consumers will usually prefer to limit the number of apps on their device and are likely to delete – and subsequently forget about – any app they’re not using on a regular basis. This is different from a mobile site, which is always readily accessible without taking up any of the user’s device space.

Wayne professes, “If someone asks me ‘do I need a mobile site or an app- and I can only do one’ I’d always push towards a mobile site.”

The Future for Mobile Commerce

So what’s in store for mobile sites and the future online experience?

Wayne predicts, “better designed mobile sites, simpler payment gateways  like one-clicks and wallets. Search is going to get better and the interfaces will improve. I’d love to see some of that Tinder style functionality – swipe left, swipe right – replacing ‘add to cart’ or ‘add to wish list.’”

But will everyone take notice of these evolutions? “We’ll see who remains, who continues to evolve and who gets left behind;” Wayne says, expressing the importance of keeping up with industry changes to ensure digital success.

Wayne Baskin will be sharing more insights into the world of ecommerce at Retail Global on the Gold Coast 25-27 May 2016. Book your tickets at www.retailglobal.com.au

Follow Wayne via his personal blog: Ramblings of an eCommerce CTO or on Twitter