Robust User Experience May Unlock Mobile Commerce

Online sales from mobile devices are expected to exceed $41 billion in the United States this year, representing a significant opportunity for online sellers who are able to provide a good mobile user experience.

This month, eMarketer revised its U.S. retail ecommerce sales estimates upward, reporting that Internet sales originating from smartphones and tablets could now account for 16 percent of all American ecommerce purchases, excluding travel and ticket sales. The eMarketer data puts total U.S. retail mobile ecommerce sales at $41.68 billion for 2013.

A more optimistic second quarter benchmark report from IMRG and Capgemini — a U.K. retail trade association and a French consulting firm, respectively — stated that mobile devices accounted for 23 percent of online sales worldwide and, in general, some 34 percent of site traffic came from mobile devices globally in the second quarter of this year.

The growth of sales originating from mobile devices may represent a significant opportunity for small and mid-sized Internet retailers. While there are many ways to address the mobile shopping market segment, earning more mobile business may be as simple and direct as providing a relatively good mobile user experience.

Alternative Payment Methods

A key factor for mobile commerce success, explained Sage Pay CEO Simon Black, in an article on The Guardian, may a be simple payment interface.

“Any form of data entry is a big no-no for a mobile site,” Black wrote, “so don’t make your customers enter anything but the most important information. Dealing with fiddly web pages to enter card details is one of the main reasons that shoppers drop out of the process when buying via a mobile device.”

Using alternative payment methods that — as an example — allow shoppers to use a digital wallet or pay using a service like PayPal might help to boost mobile conversions if Black is correct. Similarly, make it easy for mobile shoppers to place repeat orders. As an example, a merchant might allow a login with Facebook and some form of easy pay or even one-tab purchasing for returning mobile shoppers.

Responsive Design

Two recent reports have attempted to compare ecommerce conversion rates for so-called traditional ecommerce or non-mobile devices, tablets, and smartphones.

Website optimization firm Monetate reported in its Ecommerce Quarterly for the second quarter that non-mobile devices converted at an average of 2.56 percent, tablet computers converted at an average of 2.54 percent, and smartphones converted at an average of 0.96 percent.

Adobe’s “The State of Mobile Benchmark,” which relies on December 2012 data, placed non-mobile ecommerce conversions at 3.3 percent, tablet ecommerce conversions at 2.2 percent, and smartphone conversions at 0.2 percent.

The apparent difference between the two reports may simply be a matter of the different times at which the data was collected. If that were the case, it would indicate mobile conversion rates are generally on the rise.

This mobile conversation rate data also shows at least two opportunities for online retailers. For tablets, an opportunity exists because the conversion rate is relatively high — nearly as good as the conversion rate for desktop and laptop computers — and because tablet devices accounted for 12.44 percent of traffic to ecommerce sites in Q2 2012, according to Monetate. Where traffic volume and high conversion rates meet, there is opportunity.

Smartphones represent a second opportunity, since a growing number of site visits — about 9.69 percent of ecommerce site traffic in Q2 2013 compared to 7.89 percent of ecommerce traffic in Q2 2012 — originate from the devices and because the conversion rate is relatively low, meaning that even minor improvements could net lots of extra sales.

Some experts believe that responsive site design or other forms of mobile optimization may address both of these opportunities. For tablets, optimization means that merchants are meeting existing demand and taking advantage, if you will, of a good market segment. For smartphones, optimization may give sellers a competitive advantage. In both cases, improving the mobile user experience could unlock additional sales.

“Make the viewing process easy for your customers by incorporating responsive design so that the web page adapts to fit the screen on any device,” Black wrote. “Not doing so means shoppers leave your site frustrated, rather than completing the transaction.”

Offer a Complete Shopping Experience

Providing mobile shoppers with a complete shopping experience, one that is on par with the experience they might enjoy on a desktop computer, may also be an opportunity for online merchants.

Many shoppers use their mobile devices, particularly tablets, to research major or important purchases, including looking for holiday gift ideas. Sites that do not provide a rich shopping experience that includes good product content, reviews, blog content, or even videos may be at a disadvantage.

Only merchants that provide better user experiences on site or in mobile apps may be able to both earn new customers and build long-term customer relationships.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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