Dreams is no ordinary retailer. With a digital culture focused on learning and experimentation, the beds retailer, which is seeing double-digit growth each year, is able to move a lot faster than many other retail brands. It’s little surprise then that Dreams is one of the earliest adopters in retail to experiment with Google AMP – a move that’s translating into significant performance gains on mobile.
Why retailers should experiment with Google AMP
Ever noticed an ‘AMP’ tag or lightning bolt symbol next to some of the top search results on mobile?
These are Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and they’re enabling brands to deliver lightning-fast website pages on mobile, while boosting their visibility in mobile search.
Google AMP was conceived because web pages are getting very heavy. Thanks to high-res imagery, third-party modules, and other interactive features, page weight continues to grow, and digital experiences suffer as pages get slower. By allowing you to serve a simplified version of your website to mobile users, Google AMP aims to improve mobile web experiences by serving up instant-loading content.
Getting your site to a usable state in just three seconds is now key to keeping users on your site, and page speed has recently become one of Google’s key ranking signals for mobile search. So as consumer expectations grow, and as AMP becomes an increasingly important ranking signal for mobile search, more brands (media organisations in particular) are using AMP pages to help improve UX, visibility, and conversions.
UK retailers have been slow off the mark, but with big digital ambitions and a culture of innovation, Dreams has become one of AMP’s earliest adopters in retail. Here we explore how this strategy is paying off.
AMP is not only for news websites. As we’ve shown, it can work really well with ecommerce sites, helping retailers to achieve significant increases in page speed and conversion, while cutting exit rates.
The quest for faster mobile retail experiences
With a digital culture that emphasises a ‘build, measure, learn’ approach to development, Dreams was keen to explore how AMP pages could impact its online business.
‘At Dreams, it’s really important for us to consider how a digital initiative fits into and supports the wider business goals and development plan’, explains Dreams’ Nikolay Dyankov. ‘With AMP we saw an opportunity to transform customer experiences on mobile, so we were eager to conduct some small digital experiments, learn more about AMP, and see how it could help us achieve our business goals faster’.
Sofabeds represent a significant portion of Dreams’ online business, but the website page for this product category was underperforming: the page was not visible on the first Google results page within mobile search, and was slow to load, thanks to the use of many interactive features and third-party services and software.
Speed was a critical success measure for the AMP experiments. AMP pages needed to demonstrate clear load-time gains, while securing a rise in page views and a significant decrease in bounce rates. Crucially, the pages would need to provide a slick mobile experience, while providing the same look, feel, and experience as non-AMP pages on the website.
In a world with new devices and touchpoints, and changing consumer demands, mobile experiences need to be instantaneous. With AMP, we wanted to deliver super-fast mobile experiences that looked and felt just like our regular website pages.
Dreams also recognised that, as one of the first UK retailers to experiment with AMP, there was no go-to approach to implementing AMP on an ecommerce website. Dreams would need to assess its tech stack and identify the best approach for the business, whether that was making AMP work within its existing Magento ecommerce store, or keeping the AMP implementation independent of the ecommerce platform.
Bringing AMP pages to a retail site
As one of the first UK retailers to roll-out AMP pages, Dreams knew that it was undertaking an industry first, and that the AMP initiative was likely to be challenging. That’s why it enlisted the help of its digital agency and partner Inviqa.
At Dreams, we always like to challenge ourselves and push the limits of each technology we adopt. But as the first UK retailer to experiment with AMP, we saw immediate benefit in a blended Dreams / Inviqa team that could benefit from the services, capabilities, and experience of a digital agency like Inviqa.
Working closely with Inviqa and internal stakeholders, Dreams developed a compelling business case for AMP and ensured buy-in across the business for the digital initiatives.
After consulting with Inviqa, conducting a detailed assessment of the Dreams tech stack, and testing an initial integration with Magento, the team soon realised that a custom AMP solution would be far more beneficial for Dreams’ end users. By keeping the AMP implementation independent of the ecommerce platform, Dreams could focus on user journeys, rather than on fixing code conflicts with the parent platform.
We knew that our AMP implementations needed to be planned, executed, and measured very well’, explains Nikolay. ‘We needed to be able to track what we were doing, assess the impact against our goals, and understand the impact on the site.
Six areas of the website were identified for a phased roll-out of AMP pages:
- Header and footer
- Category landing pages
- Product listing pages
By focusing separately on each area, the team was able to learn quickly and make small, incremental improvements to user journeys. Stripped of performance-heavy features, the AMP pages were designed to load and render quickly. And after achieving initial gains with the sofabeds page, Dreams had compelling reasons to move forward with other category landing pages using the successful sofabeds page template.
Inviqa’s emphasis on driving business value, its experience, and its collaborative culture was key to helping us to think outside the box and achieve the best outcome for Dreams. Our close collaboration was key to achieving our goal of fast, compelling user experiences on mobile.
Since the launch of the AMP sofabeds page, Dreams has seen dramatic improvements in page speed. These performance gains, together with a rise to Page One in Google search on mobile, achieved a record week for the sofabeds business, just three weeks after the launch of the AMP launch. After further adapting the sofabeds page to make it more promotions-led for the August bank holiday in 2017, Dreams also secured a first position in Google search for the term ‘bank holiday sale’.
Retailers that are ready to roll up their sleeves and really delve into what’s possible with Google AMP will be amazed at the end results. At the end of the day ask yourself if a customer sees two identical pages, and one is loading faster, which one will they choose?
Google AMP lessons learnt
Key to Dreams’ learning curve were small, measurable experiments. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing AMP as an online retailer, and Dreams invested time and care in testing and measuring small AMP experiments against its goals. And while separating AMP from the ecommerce platform made sense for Dreams, it may not be the best approach for every retailer.
I definitely propose that retailers look into AMP as soon as possible, but they need to understand that there is no one implementation that fits all. Take time to understand how AMP fits with what you have and work on that. Think big but start small; the learning curve is hugely important since AMP is still a relatively young technology.
Despite seeing its AMP content organically rise to the top of search rankings on mobile, Dreams’ Nikolay has a word of warning for those chasing SEO gains through AMP: ‘There is no such a thing as getting free traffic from Google just by building some AMP pages. But if you invest time and effort into implementing AMP correctly, there are clear speed and SEO gains to be had, as we learnt’.
As one of the earliest AMP adopters in retail, Dreams was invited to speak at an internal hackathon at Google to share its experiences of AMP for ecommerce, as Nikolay explains:
‘Google has seen the progress we have made through the last months on improving the overall site speed. The unique approach we have taken and the dedication we have shown definitely got their attention. Our talk to Google staff focused on the business case for speed online, and what is that actually matters for the end user’.
Inviqa has always been a highly rated and trustworthy partner for us. As an ecommerce experts they have a holistic approach that includes planning, designing and implementing some of the most complex solutions in the world.