M-commerce: How to drive sales on mobile devices

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TL;DR Our reliance on smartphones means we feel comfortable in buying from this little device resting in our hands, but e-commerce businesses need to think broader than simply building a mobile-friendly website. In the age of quickfire browsing, the multi-faceted world of m-commerce is beginning to take over

Picture the scene: It’s 9pm, you’ve finished work for the day, had dinner and are sitting down to relax – but next to you on your table sits your smartphone.

You can’t resist temptation. You check your social media feeds, catch up on some news headlines and regularly have a browse at a product or two which you’ve been thinking about lately.

The pastime of window-shopping has moved from the high street into our living rooms, and the need to remember a product which caught your eye is no longer required, instead replaced by being stored on an unclosed tab on your smartphone browser.

After the browse, you check your bank account and nip to the shop before it closes to buy a loaf of bread, using Apple Pay to complete the transaction.

Each of those three areas come under the banner of mobile commerce – and it’s growing fast.

Mobile sales not keeping up with traffic

Last year, mobile users accounted for 65% of e-commerce traffic, with the fashion industry benefiting the most, but the conversion rate of traffic into sales is still behind desktop, probably for more than one reason.

The first is the poor mobile experience still delivered by some websites. Issues can range from the obvious non-optimised website – a site built for desktop which does not display correctly for a mobile device – to fiddly form fills and poor page speeds.

Back in 2009, Forrester Consulting’s research showed that 79% of online shoppers who experienced a dissatisfying visit were less likely to buy from the same site again; 27% even said they would be less likely to buy from the brand’s physical store. The impact of a poor online experience has far-reaching consequences beyond the virtual world.

That same research revealed that 40% of consumers would wait no more than three seconds for a page to render before abandoning a website.

Now, that research was conducted 11 years ago and our expectations have shifted significantly in that time. A mobile page which is not delivered immediately faces being discarded and customers switching to a competitor.

Page speed is also a factor in Google’s organic search algorithm. Therefore, a slow mobile website will have an impact on traffic, on organic search performance and on conversion rates, with users abandoning a site which does not deliver a quick product-to-basket journey.

If you feel that your mobile site is holding you back, testing for its speed is a good place to start. Google offers a few options here: Test My Site, PageSpeed Insights  and the relatively new Core Web Vitals report, which provides information on issues in clusters across your whole site, broken down into mobile and desktop, and uses a RAG (red, amber, green) rating so you are able to prioritise the biggest areas of weaknesses first.

Images can often be the problem of a site which isn’t as fast as you want it to be. While e-commerce sites want to showcase numerous, high-quality images to tempt buyers, you should be smart with their use.

Images with big file sizes can now be optimised without losing digital quality – numerous resources are available for this – but the number of images on a page will also impact speed. Consider selecting two or three of the best which showcase a product rather than going over the top on volume.

The amount of code and tracking snippets will also impact page speed so getting help from an experienced development team will stand you in good stead.

Browsing, not necessarily buying

In those stats mentioned earlier, where 65% of e-commerce traffic comes from mobile, the fact that sales in the travel sector sits at just 29% highlights a wider point about our smartphone habits.

Where we were once desktop surfers, we’re now mobile browsers, jumping from one app to another in a flash and dipping in and out of searches.

Simply put, the three stages in buying are:

  • The ‘I need moment’
  • The ‘which one’ selection process
  • The ‘I want to buy it’ decision

Breaking those down further, let’s use the travel sector to play out this scenario.

First, you think ‘I need a holiday’; second, you go through a long, intense process of deciding what type of holiday, destinations, dates, package or self-booking and eventually narrow this down to a few options potentially with a selection of companies, hotels and flights.

There is a high probability that some, if not of all, of this consideration phase will be conducted on your smartphone and you’ll visit mobile-optimised websites and/or apps.

But the purchasing stage is where the device, or even channel, may well change. Completing forms with a considerable number of fields can feel cumbersome on a phone but easier on desktop while there is still a level of comfort gained from speaking to a fellow human about some of the finer details of a big-ticket item, such as a holiday, so a visit to the travel agents will be a conversion point for some.

In the latter example, the mobile browsing and selection stage has replaced the need to collect several brochures from in-store.

What this all means is that being seen at the ‘which one’ stage of m-commerce is crucial to a business even if the eventual purchase is made elsewhere.

Finally, you’ve made your mind up and want to buy. This is where not only the user journey to purchase needs to be smooth but also that payment options suit customers and are secure.

Shopify: The perfect e-commerce solution for mobile

When it comes to selling online, Shopify is at the top of the list for solutions – and it performs wonderfully well for mobile shoppers.

It deals securely with payments with a free, built-in mobile commerce shopping cart and a Shopify plan comes with a bunch of themes, both free and paid-for.

Built with 256-bit SSL encryption and Level 1 PCI Compliant hosting, the platform is also set up to protect your data.

For store owners, there is even the option to manage orders, update products and interact with customers via the Shopify app for IoS or Android. Push notifications can be activated to send you an alert every time a sale is made and you can view your e-commerce sales performance.

Summary

Whether we like it or not, smartphones have taken over our worlds. They’re with you at all times of the day and have become our channel of choice to browse for our next purchase.

We can use our mobiles to buy from a website, pay for our in-store shopping, conduct research wherever we are – even while browsing on store premises – view our bank account and even manage our online shop.

The term m-commerce has grown up alongside this complete shift in human behaviour and the question for your business is very simply: Are you doing enough to meet your customers’ demands?

Related Insights

Need an answer to a problem? Take a look at our insights section to find advice, guidance and recommendations across a range of e-commerce topics – from conversion to retention and loyalty, from systems integration to remarketing.

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