Going Mobile: Responsive Design vs. Adaptive Design vs. Native App

Going Mobile: Responsive Design vs. Adaptive Design vs. Native App

The number of mobile transactions on smartphones as well as tablets has significantly increased last year. Research by Adyen has shown a rise of 55% in mobile transactions in December 2013, compared to the previous year. In December last year, almost 20% of all transactions were made with mobile devices. As an online retailer, you can therefore no longer ignore mobile users. The question that remains is how to approach them visually, for there are a number of solutions. A responsive design, adaptive design or rather a native app? Which solution works best for your online store depends on a number of factors. In this blog post, we will explain the different options and compare all pros and cons.

What are responsive designs, adaptive designs and native apps?

A responsive design is a design that adjusts itself to the dimensions of the device on which it is displayed. In other words, if somebody visits your online store using his/her smartphone, the design will adjust itself to fit the dimensions of the smartphone in question. If he/she subsequently visits your online store using a tablet, the design will adjust itself to the tablet’s screen size. Because the design automatically adjusts to the device in question, your customers will see the appropriate user environment. Call-to-Action buttons are displayed in areas where they work best, without cumbersome scroll movements. Overall, this will increase your conversion rate on mobile devices. Because you only need one single design for your online store, maintenance is extremely easy.

Whereas you will need one single design for all devices with responsive design, an adaptive design requires a separate design per device. For example, you will have a design for smartphones, a design for tablets and a design for laptops and desktops. An HTML5-optimized store for mobile devices is part of an adaptive design solution. An example is SEOshop’s mobile online store, which can be activated free of charge when you use a standard theme or a custom design. The advantage of an adaptive design is that it is fully optimizable for each device, enabling providing an ideal user experience, which benefits conversion. The downside is, that several designs will have to be made, which is costly and difficult to maintain.

Several (major) online stores offer native apps. These can be downloaded through Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Therefore, the advantage of a native app is the opportunity to bring it to the attention of large audiences using these extra channels. Also, its design can be fully optimized and it will always perform faster on mobile devices than internet browsers. In addition, a native app provides the unique opportunity to send push notifications to your customers. A suchlike direct marketing channel can generate many sales. The downside of a native app is that it should support all current platforms (such as Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone). This involves very high development costs, as a result of which it is not always the ideal solution for small and middle-sized online stores. Are you interested in a native app? Please contact us or, click here for the possibilities (in Dutch).

Because of its unique possibilities and the market trend (the phenomenon of 2013, according to Mashable), we will plunge deeper into responsive web design.


The advantages of responsive design

According to Frankwatching, a responsive website generally leads to visitors who 1) stay in your online store longer, 2) absorb more content, 3) increase your conversion rate, 4) return more often and 5) ultimately, generate more turnover. As already obvious from the introduction, an increasingly number of consumers visit websites with their smartphones or tablets. Using a responsive design, you can serve these visitors in an optimal fashion. Below, I will present the three most important reasons for an online retailer to use a responsive design.

User experience for your customers

When you do not have a responsive or adaptive design, users will have to scroll down and sideward a lot to view your online store properly on smartphones and tablets. This is cumbersome and will lead to visitors leaving sooner. You will lose prospects, which implies less turnover

Improved ranking in Google

Because responsive design is optimized for mobile devices, the bounce rates of your online store on these devices will drop. Google considers this important, which is why your online store can improve its ranking in search results. More info on this topic can be found in this article on Search Engine Land.

Efficiency for you

Thanks to responsive design, you only have to activate one single design, which can be used for all devices. Especially when you want to implement time-consuming design changes frequently, the use of responsive design significantly improves efficiency. It goes without saying, that time is money, which you of course already know. For more info on the efficiency of responsive design, please refer to this post from Newfangled.

Competitive advantage

Research has shown that less than 3% of all websites (including online stores) are fully optimized for mobile sales through responsive design. A proper responsive design provides a competitive advantage. Being smarter than the competition usually pays itself back.


Do I need a responsive design?

The next question, which you will ask yourself, is: ‘Do I need a responsive design to survive in this competitive market, or will my current design still suffice?’

There are actually several ways to answer this question

  • Step 1 – check out the competition. Are your competitors using responsive design? If yes, this may be a reason to now also opt for it. You can check this easily by viewing their online stores on a laptop and resizing the browser window. Does the design adjust itself? If yes, the competition uses responsive design.
  • Step 2 - consult Google Analytics. In Google Analytics, you will find the Mobile sub caption, underneath the Target audience caption. Here you can check which devices your customers have used to visit your online store (desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile). Is the percentage of tablet and smartphone users very high? If yes, it is high time to think about responsive design. Are you having trouble in estimating whether this percentage is high? Then read the Forbes blog post, where you will find an exact explanation on how to assess it.
  • Step 4 – Have you ever considered having a native app built for your online store? Then purchasing a responsive design might be a proper first step to find out whether you will sell more through mobile devices. In addition, your online store will always be optimally accessible on every device.

When should I choose SEOshop’s mobile store, instead of a responsive design?

If you do not use a responsive design (for example, the standard or Boutique theme), we recommend to activate SEOshop’s mobile store, free of charge. This way, you can continue serving mobile shoppers.

SEOshop’s first responsive design

Because of the advantages mentioned above, SEOshop has decided to also offer responsive designs. You can now find our first responsive design, named Conform, in our Theme Store.


In the upcoming months, several responsive themes will be released in our Theme Store, which are currently being developed by a number of our partners. For this purpose, we have developed a Responsive GUI, which can be found in the Template Editor documentation.

The major advantage of Conform (our first responsive theme) is, that its checkout process has been optimized for all devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops). In addition, the theme can be customized. If you want to implement major changes and have little knowledge and/or experience with the Template Editor, we recommend contacting one of SEOshop’s partners, such as eFusion, DG Solutions, Webdinge or Totalli. An overview of all our partners can be found here.

To conclude, responsive design works great with mobile payment methods like PayPal Express Checkout and èM! payment.

Would you like to experience yourself how well the new responsive design performs when it comes to conversion? Activate the responsive Conform theme in the SEOshop Theme Store now, and benefit from a temporary discount: €7,50 a month, instead of €12,-! Note: This discount only applies when you activate the Conform theme in the month of March, and is valid as long as you continue using it.