Let’s start this article by taking a quick look at these graphs below which highlight average ecommerce conversion rates by device:
If you build or manage ecommerce stores, you’re probably aware that mobile use is increasing at a very rapid rate.
However, data based on more than 1.9 billion shopping sessions collected by Monetate, clearly shows 'traditional' (aka desktop) web users still have conversion rates more than triple that of those browsing on Smartphones.
So, that begs the question: How do we improve the average ecommerce conversion rates for smartphones?
Why Desktops Still Dominate Conversion Rates
The Hardcandy.com re-design January 2018.
I think we need to start to answer the question of “How do we improve the average ecommerce conversion rates for smartphones?” by first identifying what desktop experiences do really well.
- Internet connectivity on desktop experiences tends to be strong, thus allowing pages and assets to load quickly
- The main menu is often robust, with multiple category options
- Search bars are large and prominent
- Product category feeds often contain multiple products which are visible at once, as well as advanced filter options
- Product visuals tend to be large and detailed
Despite the fact that trends for mobile use continue to rise year over year, many continue to build platforms for desktop first because it’s more comfortable and familiar than the alternative.
Web Teams, In General, Have More Experience With Desktop Websites
The truth of the matter is, we’ve had more experience working with the desktop computing platform because it’s been around longer.
As a result, web experiences have effectively been standardized on the traditional platform. Consumers know what to expect. They know where to go. They understand how to operate a desktop website with little learning required.
Traditional Platforms On Average, Have Better Connectivity
Furthermore, wifi/ethernet is a much more stable environment to shop on. Now, I’m not saying this is exclusive to desktop and laptop computers, but it’s almost always a given when using these devices.
It’s been proven, through a number of studies that quicker load times improve sales conversions. Until wireless internet connections stabilize further, traditional devices will always inherently have an edge on mobile ones.
Bigger Screens = More Opportunity
Lastly, space is a huge advantage. UI designers can get away with a lot more on a desktop device simply due to the fact that the canvas to work with is larger. Bigger images, more menus, and more products can be seen as an enhancement to the user's experience.
Barriers And Hurdles For Smartphones
Despite the constant advancement of the technology, many of these things are limitations of the Smartphones that have to be worked around.
- Computing power on mobile devices is not as strong as traditional platforms.
- Wireless connectivity for many is unreliable at best
- The platform limits how much space you have to work with
- Due to how rapidly devices and operating systems change, there is a much wider net to what defines a mobile user.
- Mobile users are typically experiencing more than one instance of media at any given time
Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to knock smartphone manufacturers. They’re developing products that have literally revolutionized how modern society works.
That being said, there still seems to be a pretty big lack of standardization and functionality which forces us, as ecommerce website developers, to discover effective workarounds.
It's easy to find your self distracted by multiple devices, or, in a public setting like coffee shops. These types of sessions drive down mobile conversion rates.
So, despite the deck being seemingly loaded in traditional computing’s favor, there is still a lot of hope for smartphones to match or overtake this battle for conversion rates.
Improving UX = Improving Mobile Conversion Rates
Now that we know why traditional platforms have an advantage, and where smartphones fall short, let’s discuss how we, as store owners and store creators can make improvements which in turn, improve mobile conversion rates.
I want to take this as an opportunity to talk less about UI hacks and tricks, and more-so about root causes that impede conversions.
Prioritize Website Performance Above All Else
The biggest hindrance for mobile conversions in our opinion is website performance. Slow to load, laggy mobile experiences kill the user's drive to use the website.
Don't Just Focus On File Size, Focus On Requests Too
Despite the fact that the Rug & Home home page is 25% larger, it still loads .5s faster on average than the Elizabeth Arden UK site. Why is this the case?
What often goes overlooked, however, are the number of requests a website must make in order to fully render the page. To explain it simply, each request requires the session to loop, drawing on the server and the ISP. Each loop takes time, that time can add up quickly.
This problem is often more difficult to fix, as all on page assets such as images, video, scripts, and style sheets create these loops.
It’s easy for ecommerce websites to get out of control with these types of assets, after all, your average ecommerce website usually requires many third-party tools to run smoothly (Shipping, fulfillment, marketing etc). It’s also common that over time this issue becomes exaggerated as things get tacked onto the platform.
Careful design and development planning can help combat these issues by prioritizing doing more with less from the get-go. Regular audits of the website's performance should be made over time to ensure that these things are in line and the website is as lean as possible.
You Need To Optimize Your Website For Browsing
Your average users typically have their attention split across multiple channels at any given time. Many users may be in transit, such as a car, train, or plane. Or sitting on their couch with the TV in the background unwinding from a long day.
Phones are often a source of people's entertainment, but not the sole focus. This often creates a passive mindset to purchasing, which naturally drives down average mobile conversion rates.
Since they're interested, but not necessarily ready to buy, we need to prioritize the creation of user experiences that allow customers interest to peek, and facilitate a longer buying process.
Optimize How Your Products Are Displayed On Category Pages
Most mobile websites default to a single column view of products. This optimizes the size of the products thumbnail photo but diminishes the ability to quickly browse through various products. For many clients, we’ve found that displaying products in two columns rather that one actually increase average session durations overall for our customers.
If you have a product that can work as a smaller thumbnail, take advantage of the devices screen space and reduce the size of the thumbnails to get more products in front of your customer per scroll.
Different products require different displays. Don't always default to a single column if your product can be effective in two.
Make It Easy To Save Orders
Also, keeping within the mindset of an in-transit potential customer, the ability for customers to save their orders easily and effectively is critical. They may find a few items they like on their initial pass through but won't have the time or availability to make the purchase on the spot.
A persistent cart, and even better yet, e-mail notification for cart abandonment can go a long way for catching this customer when they do have the availability to make their purchase.
Be Diligent With Providing Clear Tactile Response
“Tactile Response” is a fancy way of saying: Every action has a reaction.
In ecommerce, tactile response ensures that users are being rewarded for their actions on the website. It also has been proven to improve order accuracy. Tactile response is especially important when it comes to interacting with the checkout process.
If someone adds something to their cart, they need an obvious visual cue to ensure that the product has been added successfully.
If someone completes form fields, there should be visual indicators that those fields are valid. Lastly, if someone submits their order, there should be a clear indication that the order has been received.
This approach is important for all modes of shopping (traditional, tablet, and mobile) but we find it even more important for increasing average mobile conversions because we’re dealing with an ecosystem that’s limited by poor connectivity.
Sometimes an action might fail due to network connection dropping momentarily, strong tactile cues make it clear for the user when that happens, and if they should try to submit their order again.
Consider Updating Your Stores Platform
In the last 10 years, many improvements have been made to improve how ecommerce platforms perform. Modern templating systems, such as Liquid, which was created by Shopify provide structural advantages to online stores and improve their benchmarks.
If your store was built >5 years ago, it’s most likely worthwhile to consider a re-build. A cleanly built website on a modern platform will most likely have dramatic performance improvements over a legacy system.
Since page speed is such a huge factor in buying decisions, this alone could create a solid increase in conversion rates for your store.
Desktop and tablet experiences still outperform average mobile conversion rates by double or greater. There are a number of limiting factors surrounding technology which inhibit the full potential of smartphone conversion rates.
However, there are a number of fundamental issues with ecommerce platforms today that can be corrected to improve average mobile conversion rates on smartphones. With smart planning and diligence, issues with website performance should be a non-factor.
Understanding how, and when customers use their smartphones to shop is also key to raising conversion rates.