Researching Responsive Design’s Effect on Conversion

responsive designIn market research circles, and in the broader marketing arena as well, mobile has been crowned king. Much of the current fervor is being stirred up by trend followers who are simply reacting to what their colleagues and the media are saying about aligning marketing design for use on mobile devices including tablets and smartphones. The team at Marketing Experiments set out to test the hypothesis that design for viewing on specific devices (known as responsive design) would impact conversion rates for a two-week trial offer by a regional media company. Conversion was defined as someone who signed up to receive the free two-week online subscription. They shared the results in a webinar yesterday.

Responsive design takes into consideration the screen width of the device the content is being viewed on and provides the user an experience that minimizes unnecessary scrolling and re-sizing. In short, responsive design reduces “friction” by providing the user an easier pathway to the information. In a market research context, survey designers who are employing mobile sample have been guided to reduce the complexity of the question types used and to keep to a one-question-per-page standard.

The test conducted by Marketing Experiments involved an A/B multi-factor design with a control offer that was created for desktop usage but could be viewed on mobile devices. To view the entire control offer on mobile devices, scrolling and resizing would be involved. A graphic image was also employed on the desktop version. This image and headline were lost when viewed on the Android-powered tablet and had to be scrolled to in order to be viewed on the iPhone. The control offer was redesigned so that the desktop version looked like a full-page offer as opposed to a faux pop-up, while the mobile versions were restructured to fit into device-specific dimensions. This allowed the user to see the primary offer and a brief sign-up form.

The results were interesting, to say the least!

Overall, the responsive designs yielded a 56.3% lift in actual conversions (5.8% vs. 3.7%). However the gains from responsive design were not shared equally across the platforms. The largest conversion gain came from the desktop redesign (5.4% vs. 2.7%). The tablet redesign produced a non-significant difference (8.8% vs. 7.2%). The smartphone conversion rate actually saw a decline, albeit a non-significant one (4.3% vs. 5.1%). In summary, the majority of the lift in conversion came from the redesign to the desktop version. It was speculated this was due to a reduction in friction and perceived concern on the part of recipients. The researchers elaborated that in their experience ads that leverage (or mimic) pop-ups increase user concern or anxiety.

As marketers and market researchers should we throw in the towel on design that is responsive to a user-specific device? This test would indicate that we should not give up on efforts to design marketing messages and surveys with the user device in mind, if conversion is our goal. Multiple factors which impact a consumer’s willingness to respond to an offer be it for a survey or for a product. We should continue identify those factors and test them continuously.

Greg Timpany directs the research efforts for Global Knowledge in Cary, North Carolina, and runs Anova Market Research. You can follow him on Twitter @DataDudeGreg.

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