Driving higher conversions on smartphones

February 19, 2015 10:35 AM

Many retailers who sell online are giving away a lot of potential revenue because their mobile commerce web sites for smartphones are not fully optimized to grab that final, decisive touch to buy.

Even to the most casual observer, smartphones are omnipresent. Consumers everywhere rely on smartphones for amusement or browsing; be it reading the news, playing a game, catching up on e-mail, comparing products while shopping—whenever they have downtime. But as prevalent as the device is, consumers do not often use it to purchase products. Every year retailers are inundated with studies that herald mobile breakthroughs, but in reality, very few consumers finalize purchases on a smartphone. That’s because retailers often make checkout too complicated.

Consumers usually use smartphones for inspiration or to compare products on the web with those in a store. Second-screen surfing is a popular pastime; consumers use smartphones and tablets while watching TV.

In January 2015, smartphones and tablets generated 53% of a total 157 million online visits to 50 retail sites that to m-commerce technology provider Branding Brand tracks, an 18% increase from January 2014, when smartphones and tablets generated 45% of a total 155 million online visits. Smartphones accounted for 41% of all traffic. Comparing January 2014 ($355 million total revenue) to January 2015 ($364 million total revenue), the share of revenue on smartphones soared from 8% to 12%, the Branding Brand index says. Overall, mobile commerce revenue (smartphones and tablets) jumped from 19% to 24% of total web sales at those 50 sites.

These figures aptly illustrate the promise of mobile, and show that the conversion rate for tablets and smartphones is below that for traditional PCs. Consumers search via mobile, but often still buy via desktop. And unfortunately, most of these shopping carts filled on smartphones are not later acted upon. Why the drop-off, and how can retailers counteract it?

Two key features are lacking on most mobile shopping experiences: responsive design when shopping and searching, and, a streamlined checkout process.

Many retailers neglect to study the changes in how consumers shop on desktops versus smartphones. The mobile shopping experience must be even more intuitive than the one on desktops. Responsive design is a design technique that enables a retailer to essentially build one web site that services all devices, making a site easier to maintain and consistent across devices. A responsive experience begins on a landing page and ends after checkout confirmation, regardless of device.

And the purchase process must be super quick and easy, most especially on smartphones, where mobile consumers have less patience for waits and less screen real estate to use. A consumer who has to swipe through several pages loses interest and leaves. In a typical desktop checkout experience, item confirmation, address, selection of payment method, input of payment information and final order confirmation take place on different pages. On the much smaller screen of a smartphone, these numerous steps are just too complicated. Small wonder so many consumers do not check out on a smartphone.

At Spreadshirt, we recently launched a checkout specifically tailored to mobile customers and made our marketplace for personalized products more friendly for consumers on smartphones. Each product page is optimized for mobile devices and customers can buy on one page, so-called single-page checkout. All steps in the payment process have been streamlined and consolidated in this single page format. After launching the mobile-optimized pages and checkout, orders via mobile devices increased 60%. Our I.T. team continues to implement gradual updates and stays hyper-focused on making the process even easier.

It is predicted that mobile commerce will reach the volume of today's e-commerce sales by 2018. Those who ignore it will be bitterly punished in the coming years. Why has mobile commerce not lived up to its promise yet?

In my view, there are three reasons. First, mobile commerce is simply not yet a pressing priority for many online businesses, and these businesses have ignored the relevance of a superior mobile experience. Not only do they miss new incremental revenue, but most customers who have a single bad mobile experience will not return to that online store again.

Second, erroneous optimization. Too many companies optimize their mobile presence without assessing whether the result really has added value for the customer. Just showing a mobile presence is not enough. If you are in mobile, do it right. Poor usability leads to customer dissatisfaction, leading to loss of customers, and ultimately to loss of sales.

And third, there is still strong skepticism regarding data security in mobile commerce. The payment processes should be absolutely transparent. Mobile shopping requires confidence in the corresponding payment systems (credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, etc.) and clear order processes with tight security for all customer financial data.

Online merchants take heart, because more revenue from mobile shoppers can be just a swipe away. Just be advised you must get m-commerce right before you roll it out.

Guido Laures is chief technology officer at Spreadshirt, an e-retailer of print-on-demand apparel and accessories.




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