Did you know that approximately 72 percent of consumers surveyed in the 2012 Local Consumer Review Survey trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations? Meanwhile, just over half say that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. With more consumers becoming mobile and incorporating smartphones and tablets into their everyday lives, chances are that many are reading these reviews, searching, and doing research on a mobile device.
Adapting mobile strategies to optimize for a mobile consumer experience is now a critical part of marketing strategy not only for the restaurant industry but the hospitality industry as a whole.
Your valued customers are now “checking in,” making reservations and reading reviews at the tips of their fingers while they are on the go and on their mobile device. As consumers become more mobile, it is increasingly important for the restaurant industry to recognize the need for functional and fast-loading mobile websites to stay ahead of consumers.
Some operators with abundant resources have the ability to create an app for their businesses. But mobile applications are often costly to develop and continually need updates and changes. There is an efficient alternative that can still produce a positive mobile user experience. Restaurants can easily develop a mobile site that looks and feels like a mobile app without the price tag by leveraging the latest web development tools.
Employing technologies such as HTML5 for web development will allow you to take advantage of different capabilities in addition to incorporating responsive design to make sure users get the best experience no matter which device they use. HTML5 is also widely supported by multiple operating systems, saving you time and money in the development cycle. What’s more, because it’s on the web and not in an app store, your restaurant becomes much more discoverable for users of all types who are searching and researching. Being found is often the name of the game.
Rule 1: Keep it snappy and avoid excessive requests.
Most users won’t stick around for a 60-second home page download. When this happens, not only have you lost a potential sale for the day, but these frustrated users are not very likely to return in the future. A recent mobile user survey conducted by Keynote Competitive Research found that 16 percent of mobile users will not return or wait for your website to load if it takes too long, and 6 percent will go to a competitor’s website.
It is important to incorporate best practices into the design of your mobile site that will enable speed and optimal performance, generating the best mobile user experience.
At the forefront of best practices in designing mobile optimized websites is minimizing the HTTP requests needed to for each page navigated. HTTP requests increase the time needed to download your site—and therefore increase the chance of user abandonment. There are avoidable ways that websites routinely make excessive HTTP requests.
Rule 2: Keep users on a straight path to content.
When it comes to web page navigation on the desktop browser, URL redirects are common. We’ve all know what it’s like to type in one URL and end up somewhere completely different. Behind the scenes many redirects may be taking place to get a user to the right web page. While can be done quickly on a desktop producing desirable results, the same practice does not bode well for the mobile user. While redirection is taking place with an inherently slower mobile processor, you can end up with users staring at a screen where nothing’s happening.
Surprisingly, even some of the biggest businesses have mobile sites bogged down with URL redirects. The challenges of a slow processor are compounded when each request is passed along the slower cellular network.
Rule 3: Put your site on a diet.
Rule 4: Think mobile from the start.
Your mobile website is much more than a website on a smaller screen. It’s used differently, wireless networks are inherently slower and smartphone processor speed simply can’t replicate the desktop experience. Yet your customers have similar expectations for speed and reliability.
Keynote’s mobile survey also found that nearly half of study respondents expect a website to load in less than two seconds, six of 10 respondents anticipate a sub-three second website download on tablets, and two-thirds expect a mobile site to load in less than five seconds on smartphones.
It is not easy to keep the attention of a the on-the-go mobile user, but these few tips will help get your restaurant on track for mobile optimization. Continual monitoring and testing are very important to the longevity of your mobile site and your mobile customer. Be sure to build a site with the expectations of the mobile user in mind, and they’ll be much more likely to come back.
Tim Murphy is senior manager of mobile monitoring and testing at Keynote Systems. His responsibilities include the customer and corporate communication of mobile performance improvement and insight. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.