You have probably heard it before, but that an increasing amount of shoppers use mobile devices is still a fact. In all likelihood, it will continue to hold true for years to come, because the growth potential is massive. The potential for increased mobile sales, however, is even more notable – it’s still all-too common that mobile users don’t go all the way and complete their purchases. Ease of use, security and frictionless payments are keywords that will help you sell more to mobile users.
The ongoing transition towards mobile Internet traffic is a major technological shift that affects the entire web. We use our smartphones and tablets somewhat differently than our computers, but mobile shopping is one usage scenario continues to rise sharply.
According to a study from Nielsen/Google*, mobile devices are a starting point for a significant number of activities, including shopping. Some 65% of users who shop online started their research on a smartphone before making a purchase and an increasing share of them also complete their purchases using their mobile device.
As an online retailer, your aim is to simplify the steps between your customer’s initial awareness of your product and the actual purchase. Numerous or complicated steps statistically lead to larger percentage of customers that drop out or change tracks along the way. That includes, of course, the big leap between two completely different devices, which in our case would be moving from a smartphone/tablet to a desktop or laptop computer.
As a consequence, the share of completed purchases with mobile devices has not kept up with the rate of increase in mobile traffic. Fortunately, there are methods to increase your sales to mobile users. Using a site design that adapts to mobile devices is the obvious first step. Security, perceived security, and a mobile-friendly checkout process are equally important factors, but we will start by looking at mobile-friendly design.
Optimizing your store for mobile
A surprising amount of online retailers – including many of the largest ones – still lack a mobile-friendly design, so optimizing your store could mean competitive advantages. In many cases, the cost of mobile advertising is also lower, translating to better margins for those with the right conditions to cater to the mobile audience.
Also, a fair proportion of brick-and-mortar shoppers check for better prices online before they make a purchase, which is yet another opportunity for online merchants to position themselves as a more attractive option.
But what, exactly, is mobile optimization? It all depends on your content management system (CMS). If your platform vendor uses a proprietary solution you are, for better or worse, at the mercy of the vendor. When your CMS is an open source solution such as Joomla, Drupal or WordPress, your options are greater, but it is not necessarily easier or more affordable to optimize an open source design.
Before getting in touch with a web developer, you could save both time and money by being well prepared. For example, here are a few different approaches to mobile optimization:
- Mobile apps: Many online retailers offer apps for mobile operating systems (primarily iOS and Android). However, if you don’t have very specific reasons to use an app, this option should at best be seen as a complement to a website that already works well in mobile web browsers. To attract downloads, an app has to offer some form of added value, or the user might as well visit your store in the browser. One example could be that you run an auction site and want to send push messages to the participants.
- Stand-alone (redirecting) mobile versions: The conventional approach is to redirect mobile users to a design that differs from the desktop version of your site – perhaps even on a separate URL such as mobile.example.com. When your server detects mobile browsers, it will deliver a customized, scaled-down version of your site. The main advantage is that your site will load faster on mobile devices, but this comes at the cost of altering the layout and user experience to some extent. Another potential drawback is that your server could fail to detect various browsers and deliver the wrong type of content.
- Responsive design: Responsive web design is a different approach that doesn’t really alter the design. Instead, it is automatically adapted to the user’s screen size and resolution, which results in a more consistent user experience. A potential disadvantage to serving the same content across every device is that the site’s speed could be adversely affected compared to mobile-specific versions. Despite this disadvantage, responsive web design is usually the best solution – at least according to Google.
To further simplify the development process, put together a list of requirements before the work begins. It may consist of items such as the following:
- Specify what content can be omitted in a mobile design to save space, as well as the parts that must be present on all devices.
- Look for examples of good mobile design on other websites to find a good starting point for developing your own.
- Make sure that page loading times are kept to a minimum – especially when using responsive design.
- Ensure that the shopping cart and checkout design elements are sufficiently large and obvious regardless of screen size and resolution.
- Verify that all parts that are important for your search engine optimization efforts will remain intact in the redesign, including all HTML titles and meta descriptions.
Improving Your Checkout Process for Mobile Users
Even if your site looks perfect on every device you can think of, your mobile conversion rates could still be abysmal if the checkout process isn’t equally well adjusted. Actually selling to mobile users is one of the biggest hurdles for e-commerce businesses in the transition to a mobile-friendly web.
The average online shopper is still more comfortable using their computers for completing purchases, especially when credit card numbers and other personal details are involved. The e-commerce industry has partially responded by viewing mobile devices as a research medium, with the goal of getting the user to complete the purchase on a computer.
This approach is neither practical nor sustainable for several reasons. One reason is that the transition to mobile is not a temporary phenomenon, but a permanent change in how we use the web; another is that it adds a very cumbersome step to the buying process.
As we have brie y covered already, adding additional steps to the checkout process will inevitably result in a percentage of users dropping out. In other words, a better alternative would be to make the checkout experience as reliable and secure as possible, so that your customers don’t mind completing their purchase with their smartphones. This of course begs the question: How do you add a sense of security – and actual security – to your mobile checkout process?
Like all other conversion-related elements on your mobile site, the checkout process should have well-needed and obvious steps leading up to the final transaction. Optional registration is one concrete example that demonstrably increases sales.
Simplified forms: Compared to a standard computer keyboard, typing on a smartphone takes more time and effort. You may also lack access to all the necessary information when you are on the move, e.g. your credit card numbers. This further highlights the importance of only asking the customer for information that you really need.
Security is always a major concern, but even more so than usual for the mobile shopper. One measure that creates a secure environment is to refrain from asking for credit card information and other personal details from customers. There are other ways to pay, such as by invoice.
Another detail that might convey security is the use of labels from VeriSign and others. An established payment service provider can also be considered a security label. Using encryption in the checkout process is a must, as is clearly indicating that the process is encrypted.
While offering alternatives to credit card payments is a good thing, freedom of choice is even better. Some customers prefer using their credit card, so removing alternatives in favor of online wallets etc. is not recommended.
A feature that lets the customers save shopping cards and/or forward them via email is also useful for mobile users.
All in all, there are many methods available that improve the mobile shopping experience on your e-commerce website. Most of the steps involve simplifying the process from the customers’ perspective and instilling a sense of security, which is often most easily achieved by simply eliminating the most sensitive parts of the process.
Resources referenced in this text
Baymard Institute: M-Commerce Usability – exploring the mobile shopping experience