Mobile Shoppers Are Taking Over the World. Here’s What To Do About It.

Here’s a riddle for you. What’s 5-inches tall and transforming the way we shop online?

It’s your smartphone.

Mobile is the fastest growing segment of online shoppers in the world. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of mobile shoppers, it’s time to give your eCommerce site a long overdue mobile awakening.

In this post we’ll discuss eCommerce mobile design, including key design elements, choosing the right platform for design and looking at sites that nail it in the mobile eCommerce department.

Has This Happened To You?

I’m waiting in the dentist office and I remember that I forgot to order my cousin a gift for her baby shower. Shoot, shoot, shoot!

I remember the name of a woman that makes sustainable swaddle blankets that I discovered on a blog. I Google it and the site instantly pops up. But it’s asking me to log in. I don’t have a log in! I finally create an account so I can use the site.

Now the products are loading. And loading.

Still loading.

I pride myself on having patience, but with the looming dentist chair and a slow website, I’m starting to feel a bit anxious.

After a few more refreshes on my phone, I close out of the window, hit up Amazon and order a gift within minutes.

If only their site had a mobile optimized website. She would have made a sale and I would have saved myself a headache.

Sound familiar?

It’s not surprising that I abandoned ship. According to Mobify, a whopping 30% of mobile shoppers abandon a site that isn’t mobile optimized.

That’s a lot of missed opportunities. But who’s using mobile, really?

Well, almost everyone.

Mobile Users are Everywhere

If you’re one of the non-believers about the growth of mobile, take a look at these cold hard facts.

  • More than $1 billion in products were purchased on Amazon on a mobile device last year.
  • 73% of U.S. mobile Internet users used Amazon via browsers or apps in Q4 2013.
  • Mobile devices will account for 30% of global retail e-commerce spending by 2018, up from 15 percent in 2013.
  • “Cyber Monday” in 2013 saw retail sales via mobile and tablets approach $400 million in the U.S. alone.
  • 80% of mobile users’ purchasing decisions are influenced by the mobile channel, even if that’s not where they make their final purchase.(Source: CMO.com)

Mobile shopping isn’t just alive and well—it’s growing at a rapid, steady pace.

Here’s how to make sure you don’t get left behind.

Throw Out Everything You Know About Design

Before you can rework your desktop site to create a mobile site, you’ve got to do a little work behind the scenes.

Re-Think Your Keyword Research

The same keywords that are driving people to your desktop site may not be the same keywords that drive them to mobile.

Earlier this year, Google rolled out a new keyword planner that allows you to search by device so you can see if your crucial keywords are being searched for more on mobile. You also want to think about how a customer might be finding you on a mobile site differently, for example, using terms like “nearby” or being more location specific.

Pick a Platform

There are a variety of ways you can create a mobile optimized eCommerce site, from using a responsive theme to hiring a professional developer to create a mobile specific site. We’ll take a deeper look at your options later on in this post.

Pare It Down

Your product descriptions will be shorter, your navigation will be easier, your CTA’s will be sized to fit a finger, not a tiny arrow. Creating a mobile site is a great lesson in thinking about only the most necessary elements your customer needs to find what they need to shop.

And perhaps most importantly…

Make It Easy to Buy

Smart phone with money concept. Dollars.

A clunky experience while browsing on your phone isn’t going to win you any customers or sales. Here are a few things to remember, whether you’re designing the site yourself or hiring it out.

Load time:

73% of mobile users report encountering a website that was too slow to load, according to KISSMetrics. Don’t be one of the slow pokes. Compress large images, remove players like Flash that don’t work on mobile and test your site’s page load time using Google’s Page Load Tool.

Navigation:

Design as if you’re the user. Make sure your navigation is big enough for an adult finger to navigate. There’s nothing worse than super small links that are impossible to select. Same goes for any CTA – you want “Shop now” or “Buy” to be easy to click.

Click-to-call:

If someone is looking at your site from a phone, they should be able to use it to make calls too. Implementing this gives a potential customer the opportunity to call right from your site.

Check out:

Give users the option to log-in under their own account or to simply proceed as a guest. And make sure your mobile payment system offers an option to checkout without having to enter loads of personal information and long, cumbersome credit card numbers. PayPal seems to be the best option currently, though we may see an uptick with Apple Pay in the future.

Pick Your Mobile Platform

Responsive web design on different devices

Here comes the hard part. Your checklist of features can be as long or as short as you’d like it to be, but deciding what route to take can be tricky. We’ve broken it down into two options: responsive sites versus dedicated, mobile specific sites.

Responsive Is Awesome

Responsive is tantalizing. If you design a responsive site, it means your site will adapt across all devices in a digestible, readable way using one codebase. This is a huge benefit for a company that wants to adapt to the mobile market, but doesn’t have the extra time or resources to manage multiple websites or platforms.

Plus, Google recommends you use it. And when Google says “Jump”, we say “How high?!”

“We have seen that approximately 23% of mobile website traffic is due to a product search from Google. If you don’t know that, you will lose a lot of customers going back to Google, because they have not found the right product,” warns Andrea Anderheggen, founder and CEO of Shopgate, a SaaS system that helps merchants increase mobile revenues and create mobile websites and custom apps.

If you use responsive design, your site will rank just as well as a separate mobile and desktop eCommerce site.

But just because the end result is streamlined and simple in theory, that doesn’t mean a responsive site is necessarily the easier route. It still takes time to create.

Responsive isn’t the best route if you have an information-heavy site. Since the site adapts to each device on its own, a site that relies on deep details for product pages and categories can still be a less than stellar experience for customers. If your eCommerce site requires a lot of information for customers, you might want to create a separate mobile site.

Responsive Is Overrated

Responsive sure sounds amazing. “The promise is to get one code for all devices,” says Anderheggen. “However, we see it as more of a first step. It does not deliver the results you can fully achieve with mobile.”

One of the major cases against responsive is conversion. “Responsive may increase conversion by up to 3 times compared to non-optimized sites. But a dedicated mobile website and native apps to match all customer preferences increases the conversion rate by up to 12 times!”

A dedicated mobile specific site performs better because it is being built specifically for mobile users, not just adapting to mobile users.

Simply put, 1 out of every 1000 visitors may buy something on a non-optimized website. On responsive sites, 1 out of every 250 visitors may order a product. A dedicated mobile strategy can bring this figure up to 1 in 60 – 4 times better than responsive and a staggering 15x better than non-optimized websites, according to a study published from Shopgate.

A dedicated mobile commerce strategy does 200-300% better than the averages from responsive or mobile templates while additionally offering a superior design.

Hiring custom developers for a mobile specific site can be pricey. But Anderheggen insists it’s worth the initial investment.

“It may sound like responsive allows you to save. But that’s not true for two main reasons. It’s quite some work to set it up, especially if your site is not static and includes many features. When you look at your mobile site design over time, it’s actually even more work to keep the site responsive over time when adding new features. In fact, we’ve seen in our own experiments and on our own website that responsive can increase development time three times over.”

If you hire a developer, consider time-to-market and development costs to get your mobile-specific site up and running. Depending on how in-depth you decide to make your site, it can take a long time to get it right. Which means it could take a lot of moolah to get it right too.

“If merchants want to develop for all of the six currently relevant platforms, it may take well over one year with a team of at least 3-5 developers,” says Anderheggen.

Maintenance costs will also be higher because it’s not about one platform, but up to about 6, if you decided to get the full potential of mobile. “And the devices are changing very rapidly,” points out Anderheggen.

The bottom line:

Go with what your budget can realistically allow. Any mobile site is better than no mobile site in our book.

 

Show Me A Cold, Hard Conversion Rate!

Steve Chou, (the man behind the awesome blog My Wife Quit Her Job), created his own mobile site of his eCommerce store Bumblebee Linens in 2011. At that time, his mobile traffic was 6%.

Today it’s at 30%.

Traffic increased by 26% since 2013 and revenues for mobile were up 41% and overall mobile revenues are on the order of double digits at this point.

Not bad, right?

Before he had a mobile optimized site, Bumblebee Linens was getting 28% less pages per visit with 1% conversion rates (in tracking targeted customers that are looking to purchase).

Once his mobile site launched, those conversion rates doubled and his per visit value went from $.28 per visitor up to $1.25 per visitor. That’s a lot of extra revenue thanks to a mobile-optimized site.

Last year, traffic from smartphones accounted for 11.3% of his overall traffic during the holiday season and was responsible for 3.2% of sales. This past year, smartphone traffic accounted for 21.3% of overall traffic and 6.9% of sales, one-fifth of all traffic coming to Bumblebee Linens.

There isn’t a downside to adding a mobile optimized site for your eCommerce business. Regardless of the route you take, you’ll almost certainly see an uptick in site traffic, conversion rates and sales.

Inspiring Mobile Sites

Here’s a trick to know if a site is responsive versus a custom mobile build as you research this on your own. Any site that begins with m. on your phone means it’s a mobile specific site, separate from the desktop version.

Hop on your phone and check out these sites right now to get the creative wheels turning.

Starbucks
Burton
Amazon
Patagonia
BassPro
Zappos
Asos
Nike

 

Mobile Design Checklist

Now that you know how effective a mobile eCommerce website can be for your business, use this checklist to make sure its optimized correctly. We call it the CLANCY formula.

Does Your Site Do The Following:

Check out made easy
Load time is quick
Analytics are mobile optimized
Navigation is a cinch
Click-to-call is readily available
You’d want to buy from the site, even if it wasn’t yours

Mobile isn’t just a “nice to have” anymore, it’s a “necessary to have” if you want to adapt to the changing landscape of eCommerce.

Good luck to you as you head off into the exciting world of mobile commerce.

Thanks to Andrea Anderheggen of Shopgate.com and Steve Chou of Bumblebeelinens.com. Statistics from Steve Chou came from a video from our private forum.

This post was written by Laura Serino, Community & Content Manager for eCommerceFuel.

Post tagged in: SEO & Marketing

14 Comments

  1. Hello Mr Andrew,

    “…you can do everything perfectly well but if there is no market demand for your product, you are doomed!”

    That was a quote I held on to from your eBook profitable ecommerce.

    My name is Moyosore, am a Nigerian a country where ecommerce is thriving but still very much at it infant stage.

    My problem is after using google keyword and other tools to test and search for a market Niche I can start online. The result had always been discouraging.

    The highest monthly search on all the products I have tested was 15,000+ Android phone, and 11,000+ for PlayStation 4 console.

    Your eBook thought us that those results are not worthy of pursuits cause the 1% conversion rate might not be impressive.

    Andrew am about giving up on Niche market ecommerce for my drop shipping business am planning to launch this month.

    Please how can you help me to test your keyword knowledge in a Google location Nigeria and suggest a positive niche to start.

    Thank you.

  2. Great post Laura!

    I had a friend forward this on to me.

    Mobile will indeed keep growing until e-commerce stores can no longer afford to ignore it. Sort of like what happened with retailers in the 90’s who decided to ignore the internet for a while.

    Anyone who starts now by thinking about their mobile strategy will reap the rewards immediately and exponentially going forward.

    I don’t think stores with 100 skus need a dedicated mobile site or an app though (as “online store help” mentioned) – at times that can actually hinder if they’re not maintaining it. Responsive techniques are capable of hiding distracting text, and showing more visuals as well as simplifying calls-to-action.

    My focus is improving mobile conversions, and I’ve been working on a plugin for responsive sites to boost their sales. I wanted to open up an invitation to the ecommercefuel community for beta-testers. If you have signficiant mobile traffic and interested in improving sales from your responsive site send me a note at alfred@clearwaydesign.com

    1. Thanks Alfred! Agree that its certainly a strategy that store owners can reap the benefits of straight away. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I think the argument FOR a mobile specific site vs a responsive design is a little off. In the long run having two separate code bases will cost a lot more in maintenance with the same upfront development costs. There is no reason a good responsive site would have a lower conversion rate than a mobile specific version. (The keyword there being “good”, it should be hard to tell the site is not mobile specific when viewed on a small screen.) Keep in mind the Shopgate study came from a company in the business of selling mobile specific development.

    1. Hi Derek! Those are great points, and certainly very true. I am totally for responsive – I think its great. That said, I bet the future is in adapting to every device specifically for eCommerce stores. Perhaps both will be a moot point in the next several years!

    2. Great comment, Derek. I think the big case people make for a mobile specific site is the speed with which it can load, and that it can be 100% tailored to the mobile platform vs. having to adapt to both mobile and desktop.

      In theory, could you create a responsive site that converted as well as one optimized 100% for mobile? Probably. But most people will do a “pretty good job” of getting a site that works for both and call it good.

      Responsive sites tend to be significantly slower to load on a mobile device vs. mobile-only sites, largely given that full-sized images have to be downloaded when they’re not needed on the smaller device. Yes, there are ways to get around this and load smaller images when a mobile site is detected, but not everyone will do this.

      We’re currently building out a responsive site for our eCommerce store, so am in agreement with you. But just wanted to play devil’s advocate and highlight the pros for the mobile-specific option.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. These are valuable points. We have to choose the right platform to market. Website plays an important here. Responsive sites are more helpful for mobile targeting. I am trying to make increase in my sales and this post will help me more.

  5. Yes, I agree with the author. “Mobile”is probably going to be the future of marketing and that’s why Google has taken some serious steps to make sure mobile users can get better results like responsive design, bandwidth, touch element, parameters etc. All these steps are only for one reason and that is increasing visibility on mobile devices. Thanks for this post, I have also to take some great steps after reading through this article.

  6. In my opinion an important aspect of the success of a mobile version for e-commerce is not in the version itself, but in the market segment in which the site. I mean, it is true that the market is changing, but still many purchases are made exclusively from desktop computers. It is also true that there are large segments in growth compared to conversion through the mobile platform.

  7. Mobile is the future and if you are not mobile then you are missing out on a big part of the future. But I strongly recommend mobile site to be perfect and any company must have some decent budget for it, The money you are going to invest will have at least the double ROI!!!

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