In the office supplies industry and especially in the world of b2b, mobile has always been seen as a channel that is under invested, and it is still true today that the Office Supplies industry under indexes in mobile traffic in comparison to other e-retail industries.

However, it’s worth noting that there is no longer such a thing as a single channel purchasing journey. Customers might have a preferred channel but they no longer interact exclusively through that channel and are often influenced or have researched their purchasing options across channels before buying. In order to compete in the office supplies market going forward, dealers must be able to start a dialogue or transaction on one media and continue it across others, ensuring they have a strong brand presence across all channels.

This coming January Google are planning their next big mobile algorithm update, which has been dubbed by the search community as the next phase of “mobilegeddon” and dealers must be prepared.

What are the key mobile changes to look out for in 2017?

Google to Divide its Index

To date Google has operated with a single search index covering both desktop and mobile usage, but following a recent announcement in October made by Gary Illyes, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, they now plan on releasing a separate mobile search index within months, which will become the main or ‘primary’ index that the search engine will use to respond to customer queries.

Google’s mobile first strategy, should not come as a surprise considering most digital growth is now coming from the mobile channel, however quite how this will affect desktop search results is still unclear. For example, if you are not optimised for mobile, will your desktop rankings be penalised? If the mobile index is to become ‘Primary’ then how out-of-date will the desktop index become? What is clear once again, is companies like Google reiterating the importance of creating mobile friendly websites, so if you haven’t made plans to move to a responsive web design solution, you really should make plans to overhaul your shop window soon.

Google will penalise mobile sites for pop-ups that obscure your view

Pop-ups that obscure the main content of a mobile site will now also negatively impact your keyword rankings and the ability for customers to find you on mobile devices.

Most of us agree that ads on mobile (pop-ups and interstitials) are annoying, yet in the world of m-commerce they are still frequently used to push promotional messaging and capture user details. Google’s objective is to direct users to informative and optimised search result pages with clear content and strong user experience, so it seems reasonable that Google would look to start penalising sites by lowering rankings where content is not easily accessible.

Let’s hope that with the introduction of the ‘primary’ mobile index, mobile websites that are ignoring the warning signs, do not start to see an impact on desktop.

Speed and Performance
Back in June 2016, Google announced that they were updating their page speed ranking factor to specifically look at the page speed of mobile pages. In the past many of Googles ranking signals were based on desktop web pages only, but in line with their love of all things mobile, Google has updated their algorithms to factor mobile page speeds.

In September this year, Google also announced its support for the new AMP technology and their plans to implement a new AMP icon on its mobile search results pages, enforcing the importance of ensuring your mobile site speed is optimised.

How will this impact office supplies dealers?

Office supplies dealers have to compete not only with other local dealers, but with online retailers and the giants like Amazon. It makes it even more important that any local searches for your products bring up your company name at the top of Google search. On average our dealer partners get 40% of sales online, and mobile traffic nearly accounts for 10% of global traffic across the group. Therefore, it’s crucial to continue to optimise all online channels and take all the steps you need to ensure your customers can easily find you online. As mentioned before there is no such thing as a single channel purchasing journey, and your website is your ‘Shop window’ in the online world, so it’s important that you future-proof it for all new visitors.

From now on, Google essentially won’t make any distinction between mobile-friendly and non-mobile-friendly websites – all websites must be mobile friendly, and if they’re not then your website will simply be penalised for it. According to Google, on average 56% of all their searches are now performed on mobile devices, so the algorithm updates are unsurprisingly supporting the Google mobile first strategy.

What to do if your mobile site is not mobile friendly?

At Office Power we have been working on a huge user-experience re-design project for our dealer partners which will be launched this January to coincide with Google’s algorithm updates. Our partners will benefit from a fully responsive solution, built using the latest technologies to ensure we adhere to Google’s guidelines.

If you haven’t moved towards a mobile-friendly responsive website design, then invest now to ensure your potential new customers can find you across all channels. If you do have a responsive website design, then make sure it follows all of the latest guidelines. Check things like font sizes, load times, image sizes, button sizes and if you are still using mobile interstitial ads then start to think of an alternative advertising plan.

By Richard Sinclair, Product Director at Office Power (part of the EO Group, a Stationers’ Corporate Member, and sister company of Euroffice).

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