Enhancing Mobile Sales Productivity this Holiday Season

According to eMarketer, actual sales transactions completed on mobile devices account for a rapidly increasing share of U.S. retail e-commerce sales and are expected to contribute to strong growth (16% of all e-commerce sales) during the upcoming holiday season. This presents a big opportunity for marketers, and is even more significant when one considers the facts: While retailers may be experiencing more visits from consumers using mobile devices, the overall mobile conversion rate has remained comparatively low.

According to one recent study by BrightEdge, mobile traffic is up 125% since 2012. But when it comes to actual sales, smartphone users are converting at only one-third the rate of desktop users. In addition, recent data from IBM shows that one-quarter of all visits to e-commerce sites occur on mobile devices, but only 15% of purchases are actually made by customers on the go.  To truly address the mobile opportunity, sellers must move beyond just generating more mobile traffic and learn how to optimize customers’ mobile experiences in order to drive more mobile sales.

In many instances, customers use their devices to browse and compare, but ultimately end up completing their actual purchases on a desktop device or in a physical store—or not at all. This is due to a variety of reasons, including lack of familiarity with mobile shopping; mobile conversion paths that are too long and painful; or failure to optimize a site for touch, thus hurting the tablet sales opportunity. Another likely (and often overlooked) reason has to do with the core of the mobile sales process itself—the online store. The fact is, most online stores are simply not designed to arrange content for optimal viewing automatically on all mobile devices.

There are many things an organization can do to make a mobile site as user-friendly and productive as possible; for example, streamlining the purchase flow; simplifying interaction through touch; adding social sharing—or even allowing customers to save a shopping cart as they move from one device to another. But one of the easiest, most cost-effective, and often overlooked ways is to select an e-commerce solution that is optimized for mobile shoppers.

Key online store criteria for mobile

If driving increased revenue and higher conversion through the mobile channel is a key objective for you, here are some important considerations when building an online store:

  • It should be flexible, adaptable, and fluid.

Often referred to as “responsive design,” this means the online store can adjust content to provide the best experience based on the customer’s device. This type of shopping cart can detect automatically when a screen is narrow and adjust accordingly using built-in CSS rules, thus ensuring that the online store displays optimally. As users change the size of a browser to make it larger or smaller, they can see the design change in real time.

Responsive design  allows online retailers to create one webpage, which then configures multiple sets of CSS rules to change the format and layout of pages based on the size of the browser window. Overall, responsive design is considered much simpler and more cost-effective than the typical approach of developing completely separate mobile versions of a site to accommodate mobile devices.

  • It must be lightning-fast.

When it comes to facilitating higher sales conversion on any platform, speed is the name of the game, and that’s especially true in mobile commerce. In fact, today’s mobile users expect even better performance on mobile devices than on desktop PCs, as the assumption is that mobile sites and storefronts are optimized for these devices. According to the Web Performance Today blog, the conversion rate on smartphones drops by an extra 3.5% when users have to wait just one second. By the three-second mark, 57% of users will have left a site completely.

With so much emphasis on speed, the online store must incorporate modern technology that gets customers in and out of mobile storefronts as quickly as possible.

  • The online store should deliver a similar experience whether for mobile or desktop e-commerce.

This means not only being fast, but also offering the same rich e-commerce feature set for mobile visits. For example, if an online store offers the ability to look at a product in different colors on a desktop, the same functionality should be available on mobile devices.

Emulating the desktop e-commerce experience is a natural extension of the first two criteria listed above. By supporting responsive design, the online store brings easy browsing of store content—a hallmark of the desktop e-commerce experience—to mobile customers. Store features that drive high conversions no longer need to be sacrificed for the sake of preserving mobile speed.

The takeaway

To improve mobile shopping from its current high traffic/low conversion performance record, marketers need to consider many approaches. Improvement tactics may be in vain, however, if mobile customers cannot view and thoroughly inspect what’s being sold in the first place, or cannot navigate the online store effectively. Paying attention to the guidelines articulated above puts you in the position of today’s mobile customer—someone who is on the go, navigating your store with one hand, and hoping to spend less time to get more accomplished. As marketers refine their mobile strategies for this holiday season, focusing on the heart of their selling engine—the online store—will go a long way toward making this a highly profitable year.

Jim O’Hara is president of Ecwid, Inc.

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