Responsive web design: Restaurants' No. 1 competitive advantage

Feb. 6, 2013

By Billy Fischer,director of business development at Dynamit

Last year was one of transformation Internet usage sparked by many new computing devices and consumer behavior changes. The prevailing theme: mobile. With PC sales projected to decline for the first time in 11 years, gone are the days when most people are accessing your website from their desktop computer. Today’s users have become far more comfortable and interested in mobile computing platforms like smartphones and tablets; 56 percent of Americans now own a smartphone and tablet shipments are projected to top 240 million worldwide.

When we look at all the mobile Internet usage data, we discover that restaurants fair very well. According to eMarketer, 24 percent of mobile searches in 2012, were for restaurants, the largest share of any category. Of those searches, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) purchased their meal within an hour of their search. Overall, 85 percent of smartphone users eventually converted.

These impressive mobile utilization statistics prove that there’s a steady stream of eyeballs looking at your restaurant on a mobile device. Therein lies the challenge: How do you provide a consistent and friendly user experience that promotes interest and conversion when the mobile marketplace is so fragmented with different hardware devices and software apps?

The answer: Responsive web design.

Responsive web design enables a website to adapt to the device on which it is being viewed. The website conforms naturally and seamlessly to the size and resolution of the screen, regardless of the device or browser type. Layouts automatically morph into the most attractive form. Images immediately scale themselves to fit perfectly. Navigation elements and website content flex to promote the best reading experience. With a responsive web design, all of this is possible from one implementation, meaning you don’t need to undertake the costs and overhead of building multiple versions of your website for desktops, smartphones, and tablets. Such flexibility of design and efficiency of resources presents three key advantages:

1. Customer expectations, pleasantly satisfied
In 2012, Google released a study titled What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today. The report’s overarching theme was simple and blunt: Visitors want more from your mobile website. More than 50 percent of those surveyed said they feel annoyed when they visit a website that is not mobile optimized. The same survey base said they want more than just the basic information; they want to be empowered to “take an action.” Applied to restaurants such as yours, customers want to build a meal, place an order, get directions to the nearest location and more.

Responsive web design meets these usability expectations head-on. Instead of stripping down information and utility to the bare minimum, or worse--assaulting them with an incomprehensible website designed for a much larger display, responsive web design allows your website to render the features and information your customers need in a fashion that is user friendly and conducive to their interests.

2. Reduced costs and streamlined management
Before responsive web design, many brands created multiple variations of their website. Each instance was a significant investment of capital with ongoing maintenance costs. Those costs compounded over time as technologies changed and staff struggled to keep all instances of the website consistent with one another.

Now that responsive web design is a proven and best-in-class option, such inefficient use of dollars and time is no longer unavoidable. With responsive web design, development costs can be minimized thanks to efficiencies of scale across computing platforms. And a single code base for your website streamlines the tools and talent needed to ensure its optimal performance. The resource savings gained from such a website strategy can then be reinvested into your business in other areas, perhaps into expanded dimensions of your digital presence such as loyalty campaigns and social media.

3. Improved SEO
Google is the most powerful and trusted search provider on the planet. When it comes to mobile, Google has endorsed responsive web design by confirming that it ranks sites optimized for mobile higher in mobile search results. Considering how highly searched restaurants are (as a category) on mobile devices, choosing not to pursue a responsive web design strategy is hard to justify to your customers, investors and business leaders.

We have to get a bit technical to understand why Google favors responsive web design. First, a single instance of a website drastically minimizes duplicate content, which Google loathes. Second, the concentration of content into one website increases inbound links, which Google loves. Finally, thanks to improved visitor satisfaction, your responsive website is likely to retain more user traffic as well as promote social sharing, which helps fuel more positive Google juice.

The bottom line on responsive web design
The user satisfaction provided by responsive web solutions cannot be overstated. When your customers enjoy using your mobile-friendly website to peruse your menu and place orders, not only are you elevating your top line this quarter, you’re growing that user’s customer lifetime value manyfold. Seen for what it truly is, responsive web design is a strategic asset.

If you find yourself on the fence, consider again those impressive mobile search statistics from 2012. Your customers are hungry and they’re using their mobile phones to search your website for a cure to their cravings. What will you serve them?

Billy Fischer is director of business development at Dynamit, a progressive digital agency solving complex business challenges with strategy, design, content, and technology. Dynamit specializes in integrated web, mobile, and social media solutions that empower brands to engage the right audience at the right time.

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Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Online / Mobile / Social , Systems / Technology , Trends / Statistics

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