By Johann van TonderE-Commerce Website Optimization by Dan Croxen-John and Johann van Tonder is out now, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99. For more information see or order your copy from Kogan Page.

Mobile traffic on e-commerce sites has shot through the roof in recent years. Many online retailers have watched mobile visits overtaking those arriving via laptop and desktop computers.

Alas, this growth has generally not translated into sales at the same pace, and mobile conversion rates have been notoriously low compared to its desktop counterpart.

How should you respond to this strategically? Is it wise to invest in a mobile site if it doesn’t contribute significantly to overall revenue? Here are three reasons why, in 2017, there’s no getting around it: your mobile site is critical for e-commerce success.

  1. Online sales are migrating to mobile

If recent figures are anything to go by, the sand is shifting. Mobile looks set to eclipse desktop performance once again, this time where it really matters – revenue. In December 2016, sales via smartphones were up 47% on the previous year, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.[1] Brands like Shop Direct, Asos and Schuh reached the tipping point last year, reporting that mobile now accounts for 50% of their online sales.[2]

What’s driving this? Perhaps demographics play a role; perhaps consumers are simply becoming more comfortable with m-shopping as time goes by. No doubt it’s also made easier by the fact that the mobile experience itself is improving overall. Of course, mobile websites and infrastructure are constantly getting better. In fact, IMRG researchers highlighted the introduction of larger screen phones, notably the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy 7, as a contributing factor to the upswing in m-commerce.

  1. The cross-channel consumer

Actually, thinking about the consumer in such silo’d terms as “mobile” or “desktop” is bound to send us in the wrong direction. The Digital Connections study[3] found that 50% of shoppers who concluded transactions on their desktop or laptop had first done research on a mobile device. And mobile is not only assisting other digital channels. ASDA found that people who saw a cross-device ad campaign were 59% more likely to visit a store.[4] It doesn’t end there, as 48% use their phone to research products while shopping instore.

Against this background, the problem of persistently low mobile conversion rates has to be reframed. To what extent does your mobile site feed the higher desktop conversion rate, or store purchases, without getting the recognition? It also raises the question whether the mobile site should be optimised primarily for sales or for cross-channel purchasing.

  1. Stop sending mobile visitors to your competitors

According to Google’s research, “users will keep looking for a mobile-friendly site until they find one that works for them.”[5] If your mobile site suffers high bounce rates, you may well be a victim of the fickle mobile consumer. Bear in mind that mobile users are often multi-tasking, in an environment where they’re easily distracted. They may be cooking dinner, watching television or sitting in a meeting at work. If your site doesn’t meet their expectations quickly, the Back-button can bring them back on course.

The solution, in part, is to make your site responsive if you haven’t already done so. This is a way of designing webpages so that the layout is automatically adapted to suit the screen of the device the page is viewed on. It’s a great starting point, but it is just that: a starting point. It doesn’t mean that the experience is optimal.

To improve the mobile experience, it’s vital to understand visitor intent, behaviour on your site, and how mobile fits into the broader purchase journey. Each situation is different, so there’s not much point copying competitors.

Use inexpensive tools to help you figure out what’s likely to work for you. Every site should be tracking clickstream data with services such as Google Analytics. Create a separate view for mobile to identify weak spots and see where people are dropping out of the journey. Onsite surveys, session recordings and heatmaps can add further layers of understanding to this and will bring you closer to knowing what is driving the observed behaviour. Be sure to configure these around mobile visits specifically. A round of mobile usability testing can help you to spot conversion blockers or other issues, which can give you a quick steer on where improvements can be made.

E-Commerce Website Optimization by Dan Croxen-John and Johann van Tonder is out now, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99. For more information see or order your copy from Kogan Page.






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