Google Algorithm Update Poised To Impact UK Retail Rankings

Author

Fiona Briggs, Contributor

April 21, 2015

Today’s Google algorithm update, which favours websites that work well on mobile devices, will send a warning shot to UK retailers and accelerate mobile adoption, according to leading digital marketing agencies.

The update, which will impact the search ranking for those sites not deemed to be mobile friendly, comes at a time when consumer spending on mobile devices is tipped to top £53bn a year by 2024.

But new research shows retailers are unprepared and on the back foot with regard to their mobile adoption and readiness.

Global digital marketing firm, The Search Agency, has scored the websites of the FTSE 100 companies for its annual Mobile Experience Scorecard report.

It ranked the mobile experience based on five factors: load speed, site format, calculated download speed, social media presence and app presence.

None met all of the set criteria or achieved a perfect score in its study. Tesco came the closest and was the only company to score over four, out of a total of five. Morrisons was the second most highly ranked retailer coming fifth with a score of 3.14. Other blue chip retailers performed less well with Marks & Spencer scoring 2.01 and Sainsbury’s 1.75.

E-commerce agency Ampersand has researched the top 50 UK online retailers to see how they will fare in light of the Google update.

It found 16% of websites failed the mobile test.

For Felicity Long, head of digital at global media agency, Carat, not appearing when consumers are actively searching for products, is the equivalent of a retailer closing the front door to their offline stores. 

“If retail brands are not appearing because they are not mobile ready, consumers will not discover their products and ultimately purchase them , whether on or offline,” she said.  

While Google has established Responsive Web Design as the industry best practice, The Search Agency study found two thirds of FTSE 100 websites are not responsive – only 32 companies have responsive sites and just 29 have mobile dedicated sites, down from 42 in 2014.

Further, 39 companies in the FTSE 100 have no mobile friendly site, risking significant impact on their search ranking, according to The Search Agency.

“The influence of mobile has continued to grow throughout 2014, with mobile paid search clicks rising 36% in 2014, and mobile expected to surpass 50% of all total paid search (Marin Software reserach),” said researchers.

“For those FTSE 100 sites that are e-commerce, 32% of UK consumers make purchases on smartphones (Econsultancy), so not having a mobile friendly website could be costing loss in revenue for the business .”

That could be significant, new research by Barclays shows. It found consumers are set to spend £53.6bn a year using their smartphones and tablets by 2024, compared with the £9.7bn spent today.

But the influence of mobile on spending is expected to more than double this figure from £18.4bn to £112bn over the same period, said Barclays. This means that nearly half (42.4%) of all retail sales will involve a mobile device in some way or another, making mobile the fastest growing retail segment.

Contrast that with predictions for single digit growth in the wider retail sector.

Richard Lowe, managing director and head of retail & wholesale at Barclays, said: “The size of the retail opportunity is clear for all to see. The question every retailer should be asking themselves is what they are doing about it to not only satisfy today’s consumer but, also tomorrow’s.”

As a result of the growth in gadgets, almost half (46%) of retailers claim at least some of their sales are generated through a mobile device, Barclays found. However, fewer than 3% think their business is at the cutting-edge when it comes to being mobile ready and two thirds (68%) have no plan of action for future investment in mobile.

That’s shortsighted, according to Long at Carat. “Although the traditional view is that search only drives e-commerce, this simply isn’t true which is why the impact of Google’s algorithm change could be so significant,” she said.

“We know that consumers are using search to discover products, find out about stores, find locations and compare pricing amongst other areas. Data gathered through CCS, our proprietary research tool that surveys 11,000 people and their media habits and attitudes, shows that 36% of consumers in the UK regularly use their mobile phone to compare prices when in store . Not being part of this journey is of great risk to retailers as consumer behaviour becomes increasingly mobile.

“Our CCS data also shows that 23% of consumers in the UK won’t visit sites that haven’t been optimised towards mobile , so Google’s move to drive a better experience on this platform is understandable. This will accelerate mobile adoption among retailers, which is a good thing,” said Long. ”However, my concern is that certainly in the short term this will disproportionately challenge smaller retailers.”

This article was written by Fiona Briggs from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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