Your Ecommerce Store Isn’t as Mobile Ready As You Think

Matthew Stafford Jun 29, 2016

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Have you been keeping up with the mobile web? Customer expectations and search engine demands have gone through a tumultuous evolution over the past few years. Now that it’s clear mobile is the present and future of the web, it’s time to make sure your site is in order.

For a time, having a separate mobile website designed (or redesigned) to work on smaller screens and with mobile browsers was all the rage. Then everyone jumped on the “responsive” bandwagon and suddenly having a mobile-specific site was frowned upon by many gurus.

Chances are you’re still in that camp. You think you have a “responsive” site, and that’s all you need to meet your consumers mobile retail needs.

But is your site actually responsive?

And is responsive actually enough?

“Responsive” usually means adjusting for smaller screen sizes. That approach is woefully out of date, and usually frustrating to users.

Being mobile optimized means adjusting design and function to account for finicky touchscreens, clumsy fingers, and limited visual real estate. You want the mobile experience to look and feel the same as the desktop experience, but the mobile experience has more constraints.

You may have heard the term “mobile first.” This is it, buckaroo. Sites need to be designed with mobile in mind first. Then you can make adjustments to the desktop version that take advantage of larger layouts and the ability to click smaller buttons, but…

…you still need a mobile-specific version of your site. Yes, that old option is making a comeback in a big way. And there’s a big reason for ecommerce entrepreneurs to pay attention.

Mobile Ecommerce Purchases Are About to Skyrocket
We already know that mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic overall—that happened as early as 2014, according to ComScore:

In the US, we also know that
ecommerce sales hit nearly 30% in 2015, and that sales are rising rapidly internationally, as well. Meanwhile, a very conservative estimate has mobile retail sales hitting 43% of all ecommerce sales by 2019:

I don’t think this graph tells the whole story, though. You can’t predict tomorrow’s mobile ecommerce sales based on today’s mobile ecommerce sites. People clearly want to use their mobile devices to do everything online—that’s why mobile traffic shot past desktop two years ago—the problem is simply that ecommerce hasn’t caught up.

Once ecommerce retailers build sites that make it easier for consumers to shop on mobile devices, mobile ecommerce sales are going to catch up to other mobile traffic numbers.

And it’s already happening. Nearly 70% of Amazon’s shoppers during the 2015 holiday season were on mobile devices, and as smaller retailers continue to build better and more trustworthy site they’re catching up.
That’s why we saw such a big uptick last year, and why even the most skeptical estimate shows a seven-point leap (that’s more than a 25% change) this year. If you ask me, the graph should look a little more like this:

If you want to ride that curve upward instead of being trampled underneath the wheel, you need to get mobile optimized today.

Going Mobile

First and foremost, your ecommerce site needs to be designed for mobile users. This means details like larger buttons that aren’t clumped together, no tiny text, and so on. It also means easy mobile navigation—making it easier for shoppers to find what they’re looking for without crowding and despite the limited screen space.

Vertical layouts are a must, of course, though a site that adjust based on a phone or tablet’s orientation (landscape vs. portrait) is a good thing—that kind of “responsive” is still in style. Other general things to consider are:

  • Low-weight images. You need product pictures that look good and load quickly to allow for seamless scrolling on mobile networks.
  • Color scheme. A scheme that makes buttons and other important elements stand out and is still easy on the eyes is even more important in mobile.
  • Moving navigation. A navigation bar that sticks to the top of the screen as customers scroll makes it easy for them to skip straight to what they want—and hit that “Add to Cart” button any time.
  • Limit product page text. Give customers the bullet points they need, and let them hit the pretty picture to buy (p.s. Have a pretty picture for each product and variant).

Here’s t-shirt seller Threadless‘ mobile ecommerce site:

The image on the left is right from their homepage. Product images that are clear, that loaded instantly, and that let the customer see everything with a swipe and a glance. Once you click on a product you get something like the image on the right: a bigger picture (with photos for similar products/variants), easy buttons for sizing options, and a prominent “Add to Cart” button to make purchasing simple.

It’s uncluttered yet provides everything customers need to make and execute a purchase decision. Exactly what you should be aiming for.

Checkout Considerations for Mobile Ecommerce

Every decision your customers have to make is a chance to lose a sale. This is true whether they’re shopping on a mobile device, on a desktop, or in person at a store. But each decision on mobile is just a little bit harder to carry out—one more button to tap, one more screen to load.

Simplify the process. There may be choices like size and color that your customers need to make. Give them quick, intuitive, on-the-page ways to adjust.

The same goes for the rest of the checkout process. There’s no getting around the need for customers to either log in or enter payment information, for example, but you can make it easy. (By the way, customers should always be able to purchase without registering. If you actually want to sell to new customers, that is).

A few fields on the screen at a time, nice and big. Only ask for the bare minimum you need to make the sale—if a field is optional, don’t even include it.

A security badge from a recognizable and reputable provider can also convince customers they’re safe when making a mobile purchase. This is probably the only embellishment your checkout page should have, though.

Why devote any of your limited screen space to a potential distraction?

TopShop has a great checkout layout. A few large fields to collect your name and address on one screen, a screen for billing information on the next, and then the purchase is confirmed and you’ve made another sale. The progress bar at the top of the screen lets customers know exactly which stage of the process they’re in and how short the distance is to the finish line—a great way to reduce cart abandonment.

Mobile is Growing: Make Sure Your Ecommerce Store is Ready

Take my word for it: mobile is going to be the new standard in ecommerce, just like it is for everything else people love to do on the web.

Get your site mobile optimized before the big upswing we’re about to experience, and you’ll get a bigger piece of the pie when mobile growth finally starts to plateau a few years from now. If you wait for the plateau to prove mobile’s supremacy, you’ll miss out on an untold number of sales.

Let me know your thoughts and questions about this blog down in the comments below. And remember don’t lag behind. Be a trendsetter, and get your mobile site in order pronto. Your profit margin will thank you.


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Matthew Stafford

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