Apps are great, but companies looking for maximum reach are increasingly concerned with optimizing their mobile websites. Vegas.com, one of the top city destination websites, has been doing just that over the past year, with some interesting results.
Mike Brown, vice president of optimization for Vegas.com, says his company initially thought that translating the desktop experience to mobile in what was essentially a click-to-call format would be enough. But as smartphone adoption drove traffic from the mobile, he says the company had to reconsider.
Brown says that when Vegas.com rolled out its mobile website a little over two years ago, the number of devices that could actually do mobile commerce was sorely limited by a lack of Java script functionality. “At that time, we thought that mobile was something that people would do when they couldn’t use their PCs,” Brown says, “so we didn’t offer them hotels. We didn’t offer them airlines. We’ll just offer them the things that they’ll do while they’re in town, because they can’t use it from home.”
That went along fine for a little while, but over time the company found that people were still booking hotels with their mobiles once they arrived in Vegas, even though they weren’t merchandising hotels through their mobile site at all. This past spring, they noticed that the number of people visiting the site from their mobiles was steadily climbing, and Brown says it seemed to be tied to smarpthone adoption, given their analytics. Vegas.com’s solution was to send them to their desktop site, which Brown says turned out to be a mistake.
“What we saw from our analytics at that time was that although we were sending people to a site where they could book hotels, they weren’t very likely to book,” Brown says, noting that a poor user experience was causing customers to abandon their transaction.
Enter SiteSpect, a mobile testing and targeting company that gave Vegas.com the tools it needed to optimize the website for mobile. By running a controlled A/B test, which serves up one option to some users and another option to other users and measures the results, Vegas.com discovered that mobile users do indeed benefit from a Web experience tailored specifically around mobile device capabilities.
Brown says the ability to quantify how the mobile-optimized content influenced user behavior was invaluable, allowing the company to predict the ROI of a larger-scope mobile effort. In its mobile A/B test, Vegas.com’s mobile content outperformed regular non-mobile content across a number of key metrics. The company saw a 22 percent reduction in bounce rate, a 16 percent increase in page views, 14 percent increase in hotel search and a double-digit lift in conversion rate.
“We’re now seeing mobile users spending significantly more time on the site,” Brown says. “They’re not as likely to abandon, and users are going to the big product category pages and booking more often. The mobile testing and targeting capabilities we’re leveraging from SiteSpect are helping us redefine and prioritize the way we invest in the mobile channel so that we can deliver the best, most compelling experience to our users.”
Brown says that before Vegas.com did the SiteSpect testing, the company was gung-ho on getting an iPhone app out on the market. “We thought that’s how you engage the iPhone users since that’s where the growth is, but I think that just seeing how many iPhone users are hitting our website and it seems to be replacing their desktop… having mobile compatible Web is probably more important than having a specialized iPhone experience.”