They’re the first thing we use in the morning and often the last thing we use before bed. We check them on the train, on our breaks, and even on the toilet. For some of us, they’re like a fifth limb.
Yes, mobile phones are a ubiquitous part of life from San Francisco to Seoul and everywhere in between. So it follows that phones are a huge part of eCommerce, and they’re only getting becoming more important.
A report released in early August by eMarketer revealed that more than 10% of all retail sales in the US will be made via mobile devices by the year 2025, while total sales look set to hit a staggering $359.32 billion this year. Those look like conservative estimates to some, which makes sense when you consider there are more than 5 billion mobile phone users worldwide.
It goes without saying then that mobile commerce is a key part of any successful eCommerce strategy and failure to ensure your site isn’t optimized for mobile users can be extremely damaging.
So what are the steps to successful mobile-first design and mobile commerce optimization? These are questions our platform partners like Magento, BigCommerce and Sitecore have been grappling with for years, so they’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way. Read on for the inside scoop on mobile commerce success.
There are few things more frustrating than trying to navigate a clunky and poorly designed website. Worse still is trying to navigate a clunky and poorly designed website using a mobile phone. The screen is much smaller, your fingers and thumbs are less precise than a mouse, and accessing a keyboard is more difficult. So when confronted with an ugly and hard-to-use website what do most of us do? Click out, and that’s exactly what your customers will do if your website isn’t mobile commerce-friendly.
Whichever eCommerce platform you choose, make sure being mobile-friendly is part of the conversation from the start of the process. That means buttons should be easy to click with a phone, photos and videos should load well and the design shouldn’t be cut off on a mobile, as no one wants to experience the dread of endless scrolling to find what you want.
Of course, given the size limitations of mobile phone screens, parts of your design may have to be slimmed back. There isn’t always space for every tab and page you’d normally include on the desktop version. Look at this as an opportunity to trim the fat and deliver only the most important and efficient parts of your website to potential customers. Make sure these features are easy to find, accessible, and above all, clickable. This will keep potential customers on your site longer and make it easier for them to navigate to parts of the site you want them to find.
BigCommerce makes the very good point in a blog post that being mobile-friendly isn’t just for B2C businesses, as you might think. They cite research from BCG and Google that “mobile influences over 40% of revenue for leading B2B organizations” and “half of search queries are made on smartphones”. So if your first point of contact with a potential lead is via your mobile site, you’d better make sure it’s up to snuff.
In the same post, our platform partner also included a quote from the CEO of B2B customer Atlanta Light Bulbs Doug Root, who explained that making their product catalog easy to browse and order from on a phone made wholesalers’ lives much easier.
“We’re able to give it to our commercial customers, too, set them up, put their favorite products in their phone, and then say, ‘Here, bam! All you’ve got to do is order on your phone, and you’re ready to go,’” said Root.
This is something you don't want anyone to experience on your site
Of course, it’s no good having a beautiful and user-friendly mobile website if it takes infuriatingly long to load. Speed is king when it comes to mobile internet browsing, and anything longer than a three-second loading time is not ideal. Now that may sound impossibly fast, but there are some steps you can take to ensure your website is more hare than tortoise.
The key to this is remembering that unlike with desktop browsers, many of the people accessing your mobile site won’t be using WiFi but mobile data, which can often mean slower browsing speeds. And as if you needed any more reasons to ensure fast loading time, speed has been a mobile search ranking factor for Google since 2018, so faster load times keep people and algorithms alike happy.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) protocols really help with this process to create cached and rapidly-loading versions of pages. They’re also simple to implement with our platform partners, so AMP is a bit of a no-brainer. Reducing the amount of content on your site is a bit of a trickier decision but can also massively help with page loading time, as can optimizing video and picture content for mobile.
This leads to that age-old (or more like decade-old) question: to app or not to app? Everything from your gym to your favorite brand of sports drink probably has its own app, but the question is, should your site have one?
Sitecore makes some solid points in favor of going with the app approach, chiefly that apps are better tailored to customers on the go and you can better customize and personalize your app just for mobile commerce rather than deal with the sometimes clunky process of preparing a site for both mobile and desktop. Apps also have the page load time advantage over mobile browsers, the ability to send push notifications to app users, and a lot more.
The one obvious downside of going app over mobile is you will face the challenge of actually convincing people of the value of downloading your app. Once on it, there should be plenty of features to emphasize that value (voice search, QR codes to check price and inventory, chatbots, and more) but as the mobile audience is so much more browser-based than app, you’ll have to work hard to get downloads.
Making the checkout process easy is important
By now you’ve probably figured out that we’re pretty big proponents of going mobile-first and just as big evangelists for the benefits of mobile commerce, but we’re not blind zealots. There are some pitfalls and things to consider before diving into mobile commerce to make sure you don’t make the mistakes of your predecessors.
First of all, accept that there will be a constant need for updates and optimization. The technology behind mobile browsers advances and changes at a much faster rate than traditional desktop browsers, so you’ll need to stay on top of those advancements to ensure your site is still optimized. This could be looked at as less of a pitfall than an incitement to always be on the lookout for improvements, which is no bad thing.
Payment options can also be a minefield, according to Sitecore. As there are a huge diversity of options available across the world, choosing which to include on your site and indeed how many to support are tough decisions. As with all things, data and analytics are your friends as over time, you’ll learn which payment options your customers prefer, so you can focus on them.
Pop-ups and adverts are other areas you’ll want to tread lightly in because as annoying as they are on a desktop browser, they’re doubly infuriating when experienced via mobile. So while the temptation is there to use pop-ups to grow your email list and try to grab customers’ attention and direct it towards your latest deals, do your best to resist and focus on providing a clean and satisfying browsing experience.
Finally, don’t leave the checkout process as an afterthought. If you’ve done the hard yards of getting a customer to the point of a sale losing it because of a non-optimized checkout process would be a massive waste. Magento has a pretty good checklist for ensuring your checkout is mobile-friendly:
“Your content should be concise, your buttons bold and clear, and your forms/fields easy to fill out. If the page keeps re-formatting or is too small for the user to fill out, they will likely give up and leave your site.”
Video killed the radio star, and while mobile won’t entirely kill off the desktop, you still need to get on board with mobile commerce to avoid being left behind by competitors and customers alike.